JACKSON TWP. It’s safe to say Nate Locke’s decision to put down the baseball bat and throw on the football pads paid some dividends.
How many exactly? Well, Locke now has a Division I football scholarship to show for his efforts.
The Jackson High School senior made it official early Wednesday morning when he put pen to paper and sent his national letter of intent to Bowling Green State University.
On a day when high school football players around the nation brought their recruiting process to a conclusion, Locke’s signing with the Falcons was a year in the making.
“I decided back last February when we went to their junior day and I got on their campus,” Locke said of when he first felt BGSU was the school for him. “We’re from the country area of North Carolina, a rural area, so I went to Bowling Green, and it was just this little town with a nice downtown area. The only reason it’s there is because of that college, so I thought it was a perfect fit for where I wanted to go.
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“At that point, they just said they really liked my film but they wanted me to come to their camp in June just to make sure. I went to their camp on June 13 and they offered me about five days later.”
Locke didn’t let the offer sit for long, as he elected to verbally commit to the Falcons and coach Dave Clawson shortly thereafter.
“I didn’t have to think about it that much. I’d started doing a lot of research my sophomore year, and I knew the kind of college I wanted to go to,” Locke said. “As soon as I stepped foot on that campus, I was going to pay to go there if they didn’t offer me.”
A 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker and fullback for coach Beau Balderson at Jackson, Locke said the Falcons envision him staying at linebacker and gradually adding some weight over the next couple seasons.
“They want me to come in and play middle linebacker,” Locke said. “They don’t want me to gain too much weight before I get there, but they want me to put 20 pounds on over the next two years.”
After Locke arrived at Jackson from Hickory, N.C., midway through his freshman year, he elected to pursue football over baseball. The fact that he is in position to play Mid-American Conference football is a testament to his transformation from an admittedly “slow and weak” 185-pound baseball player during his final three years at Jackson. Locke credited trainer Brad Dean at the S.W.A.T. training facility in North Canton for helping spur his development.
“I came from a high school in North Carolina that was the (baseball) state champion in 2006 and 2007. That’s what I wanted to do,” Locke said. “When I moved up here, it was a completely different culture. Baseball didn’t matter as much and football was the big deal.
“I came and was weighing about a buck-85 (185 pounds), I was slow and I was weak and wasn’t really a football, D-I type. In two years, I put in a lot of work, but he (Dean) showed me the technique and the proper training. He helped transform me from a baseball player to a Division I football player.”
A two-time team captain and first-team Federal League pick, Locke also is a National Honor Society member and was selected to the Academic All-Ohio team. He’s leaning toward majoring in kinesiology or a related biology field.
In comparison to other players, Locke’s recruitment was relatively uneventful and borderline routine. Still, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t stress at various times. In the end, though, Locke found a school where he feels most comfortable, which is the goal of every recruit.
“At times, it was very stressful,” Locke said. “Coaches would tell you something and you’d think ‘Yeah, I’m gonna get an offer now.’ Then that offer wouldn’t come, and it was just disappointing. You’d sit back and just think what else you had to do to get an offer.
“(BG) felt comfortable, and it felt like home to me. The people there are so nice. They just made me feel at home as soon as I got there.”