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2020 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Nate Atkins, LB, William and Mary

Nate Atkins is a hard hitting Mike Linebacker who is all over the field. His senior campaign is going to be one to remember.

•       Name: Nate Atkins
•       Height: 6’1”
•       Weight: 240
•       Position: MLB
•       College: William & Mary
•       Twitter: @natkins42

Tell us about your hometown, and what you love most about it?

•    I grew up in Roanoke, VA. It’s a city that fits me pretty perfectly – it’s not too big and there’s not too much going on. The thing I love the most about the city itself is the mountains. There’s nothing quite like the beauty of nature and those mountains are something I’ve really missed while away from home. But far and away from the part, I love most about it is the people – friends, family, and numerous supporters I love dearly.

    List these three in order of importance and why: Film Study, Strength and Conditioning and Practice?

•    First – practice. There’s no replacement for reps. Honing in on the fundamentals of the game is critical to maintaining and improving performance. And beyond that – getting looks from the scout team I would say is the most important part of my week of preparation for a game. It’s one thing to see something on tape and another to have to react properly to what you see playing out in front of you. Second – film study. The unfortunate thing about practice is there are only so many reps your body can take and only so many hours permitted for practice time. So, supplementing practice with film study has been huge for me. I pride myself in running a smooth ship on defense and pouring over film allows me to sharpen my formation and play recognition skills and be prepared to get the defense called, aligned, adjusted, and handle my job from there come game day. Third – strength and conditioning. I wouldn’t say it is unimportant, but I’ve always trusted myself and known what it takes to get into football shape. Regardless of the program, I’ve always found a way not only to handle the load of an entire season but perform consistently at a high level, as well.

     What do you worry about, and why?

•    It’s not fun to admit, but I worry about a lot of things – way more than I should. My faith teaches me not to, so I try my best to control what I can control and let go of the rest. But if I’m being honest, I worry about everyone and everything around me to some degree – just because I care.

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure?

•    My life motto at the current time is something I read in the book What Drives Winning by Brett Ledbetter – “Winners fail. Losers hide.” I have experienced a lot of failure in my college career. Since I became the starter our record has been 11-21 and we’ve never made the playoffs. I think the best way to overcome failure is persistence. I’ve done my best to learn from and lead through these down years and be apart of creating positive change for W&M football. I wholeheartedly believe that the eventual winners are the ones who take on challenges head-on and aren’t afraid to fail. They fail early and often, learn, and grow into winners.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?

•    I’m dependable – both on and off the field. I’ve handled my business in the classroom and have earned trust in the field through demonstrated performance. As I mentioned earlier, I pride myself on running the defense – understanding the whole picture has helped me not only to further understand my responsibility in the grand scheme but also, for example, to help a teammate should they forget their assignment on a play. I’ve done my best to be a supportive friend to my teammates when they’ve needed it, or even when they haven’t.

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?

•    I remember in my first start against NC State being in awe of Jaylen Samuels’ talent and versatility – he was everywhere for that offense – catching and rushing for multiple TDs against us. Preparing to compete against Kyle Lauletta at Richmond was a challenge, too, knowing it would end up being a chess match. One time we had a blitz called – we were poorly disguised and so he saw it and began to check the play at the LOS. Before he finished the audible, I checked our defense to Cover 2 to try and mess with him a little. But he realized what I did in an instant and told his offense to keep the original play on, which was a bootleg right into where our blitz would have hit had I not checked us out of it. He got the better of me on that play.

    What would your career be if you couldn’t play football? 

•    I truly believe both the capacity and desire to teach is in my blood. My dad is a pastor and my mom works in public schools. I’ve grown up seeing how impactful those careers can be and how many people can be impacted in a positive way by teachers in different spheres. My sphere is football – I’ve had a number of coaches who have positively impacted me and I would love nothing more than to coach when my playing days are over. As the late Reverend Billy Graham said, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.” 

     Room, desk, and car – which do you clean first?

•    I don’t have a desk, but between my room and car, I would have to choose my room. It drives me crazy if I can’t even walk around in my own room.

If there was a disaster and you could either save three strangers or one family member, which would you choose and why?

•    There’s no good answer to this question… I would have to say, my family member. I am fortunate to have family members who I not only love as families love but also truly like and enjoy being around.

If you could be any television or movie character, who would you be and why?

•    There’s a bit of recency bias at play here, but right now I would have to say, Jon Snow. I admire his selflessness, his humility, his persistence, and maybe most of all his insistence on staying true to himself.

Tell me about your biggest adversity in life and how you’ve dealt with or overcome it?

•    This past offseason has been a serious test for me. I’ve had to rehab three surgeries and go through a coaching transition. But the hardest part was when my team and I lost our brother and teammate. Going through that together has been and will continue to be hard. A lot of things have kept me going – my faith and my family have been rocks in my life. There’s been a lot of prayers and a lot of tears – I’ve found bottling my emotions up results in nothing good. My phone screen background says “PERSIST” in big block letters as a little reminder. And I have leaned on my teammates for a lot of love and support as well.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

•    I don’t have that many to choose from, as far as I can remember. I peed my pants at school in first grade once. That was a bad day.

 What was the most memorable play of your collegiate career?

•    In 2017 against Bucknell we were in man coverage and I was spying the QB. He scrambled and I tackled him, stripped the ball, and it bounced around for a few seconds before Corey Parker scooped it, scored, and did a finger roll as he crossed the goal line.

What song best describes your work ethic?

•    One of my current favorites is “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise” by the Avett Brothers. It talks about dreaming big, chasing those dreams, and refusing to let doubt creep in and ruin you. One lyric I love says “If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected, decide what to be and go be it.” This is a lifestyle I am intentional about setting forth and I believe my work ethic reflects my pursuit of those dreams.

What is the most important trait you can have (Physical or Non-Physical) to help you succeed at the next level? 

•    Speed and health – two things you can’t have enough of.  

If you could bring one person back from the dead for one day, who would it be and why?

•   Martin Luther King Jr. – I think he would bring a powerful perspective. I would love for him to sit down with our government leaders and have one more day to fight the fight for equity which unfortunately continues in this country.

If you were to open a dance club, what would you name it? 

•    Anyone who knows me that reads this will laugh because I wouldn’t do this in a million years… but for the sake of the question let’s go with “The Wishing Well.”

Who is the most underrated player in the NFL? 

•    As a Rams fan, I will say Cory Littleton. People that watch Rams games know him because he makes so many plays on defense and on special teams, but he’s nowhere close to a household name. He’s all over the field and just has a nose for the ball – tackles, sacks, INTs, blocked punts, you name it, he’s a heck of a football player.  

Would you rather be liked or respected, and why?

•    Respected. A former coach of mine always told me that leadership is not a popularity contest. I’ve taken that to heart.

 What player who had his career derailed by off-field issues do you feel for the most and why?

•    Pat Tillman comes to mind. This doesn’t fit the typical “off-field issues” criteria, but I can’t think of anyone more fitting. I admire his eagerness to give up what so many dreams of in an NFL career to fight for his country.

   Do you love to win or hate to lose?

•    If you asked me this a few years ago I probably would’ve said I hate to lose more than I love to win. But, as I mentioned before, I’ve done a whole lot of losing in my college career. Because of that I’ve learned to appreciate how hard it is to win and learned to love it more than I hate losing. It seems healthier this way.

  Who has been the biggest influence on your life and explain why?

•    My parents. They raised me the right way and pointed me in the right direction. Being teachers themselves, they showed me the value of education in multiple spheres of life. Through educating others they have demonstrated the power of servant leadership and I’ve done my best to follow that model in my leadership endeavors.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at [email protected]

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