Injuries sidelined right tackle Beau Nunn late in his sophomore and junior seasons.
A healthy senior year has allowed the former all-state lineman at York Comprehensive High School to approach the end of his college career in productive, satisfying fashion.
Appalachian State (8-4) faces Toledo (11-2) Saturday night in the Dollar General Bowl, and it's been a welcome change of pace for Nunn to enter a postseason with no injury concerns. He missed the final six games of 2015, when the Mountaineers made their first bowl appearance, and sat out the last two Sun Belt Conference games in 2016 before returning for a Camellia Bowl win against the Rockets.
He's participated in 802 of a possible 816 offensive snaps this season, and his overall grade of 86.6 from the PFF College Football site ranks 19th nationally among the 260-plus offensive tackles at the FBS level.
"It's been awesome to finish the whole season like this," Nunn said. "When you miss a game, it really does stink, so I've been blessed. I couldn't have gone out my senior year any better."
Nunn, who has accepted an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 20, is at an important QB-protecting position for an offensive line that ranks second nationally with only eight sacks allowed this season. Army, which has attempted 61 passes in 12 games, has given up just one sack.
Nunn has allowed only one sack at right tackle, and PFF College Football data says his four QB pressures allowed rank first among the 179 FBS tackles with at least 300 pass-block snaps. N.C. State's Will Richardson and Northern Illinois' Eugene German are tied for second place with five pressures apiece.
"He's played a lot of football, so he's a guy that's perfecting his craft," App State offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Shawn Clark said. "As a lineman, an inch here or an inch there is a big difference, and you really saw him take his game to the next level, whether it's pass blocking, run blocking or how he finished.
"That was probably the biggest thing for me, watching how he finished games out. He was taking guys 5, 10 yards down the field and finishing them to the ground, which is what you want to see."
Given a line-leading grade of 84 by App State's coaches, who determined he had 670 "plus" plays in his 802 snaps, Nunn finished the regular season with 62 knockdown blocks and 14 pancake blocks.
Some of his favorite plays to review on film involved double-team blocks with longtime roommate and right guard Colby Gossett. They've made a combined 85 starts, including 45 straight from Gossett.
Clark recalled the two seniors driving a New Mexico State defender 15 yards to the end zone on one App State score, and true freshman Daetrich Harrington scored his first career touchdown by following the battle-tested tandem as they drove a Georgia Southern defender into the end zone.
"We took him on a little joy ride and got after it a little bit," Nunn said.
There was also the memorable "backside" block in which Jalin Moore gained 58 yards at Georgia State after running through an up-the-middle hole created by Gossett and Nunn, who was turned in the wrong direction. He simply boxed out the defender, and Moore's long gain early in the third quarter set up a touchdown that gave the Mountaineers a 17-7 lead in their 31-10 victory.
Nunn's most noticeable effort in a throwing situation occurred at the University of Louisiana Monroe, where Moore caught Taylor Lamb's swing pass in the backfield and raced down the right sideline for a 75-touchdown. He broke free after cutting behind a block from the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Nunn, who had advanced 17 yards beyond the line of scrimmage to engage a defensive back.
"I was supposed to get the frontside linebacker, but he blitzed, so I just ran to the first guy I saw and blocked him out of bounds, and Jalin cut in behind me," Nunn said. "That was awesome. I didn't even know where (Moore) was – I was just blocking my guy. I looked out of the corner of my eye and he was going downfield."
That touchdown was the highlight of a productive return from Moore, who has missed the equivalent of three games this year because of injuries and illness.
Nunn had better luck with injuries during the regular season, and App State's ground attack took off late in Sun Belt play, as the Mountaineers averaged 311.0 rushing yards per game in their final three victories.
"The most successful lines I've been around have played together for a long time," Clark said. "With three of five starters returning, you're starting a true freshman at center (in Noah Hannon), and you're working to find the guard, and it just takes time. (Ryan) Neuzil, he gives us a shot in the arm, and you could see as they went on, it just kind of gelled over the last game and looked like a seasoned offensive line out there."