Last summer, Nate Cottrell outran belief.
At a prospect combine, Cottrell ran an electronically timed 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds, an almost absurd time.
“They literally made me run it four or five times because they couldn’t believe I could run a 4.35,” Cottrell said. “I was like, I’ll just keep running it, I guess.”
Cottrell, a Georgia Tech freshman A-back from Knoxville, Tenn., evidently provided sufficient evidence. His 40 time is documented on the 2014 SPARQ Rating National Leaderboard as the seventh fastest among the 21,000 collected at a Sparq combine last summer. At the NFL draft combine this past February, only three players ran faster than 4.35. His explosiveness extends past his speed. His 40.9-inch vertical jump was 15th best at a Sparq combine.
“I was surprised at myself,” Cottrell said of his 40 time. “But it was crazy. I was excited.”
His speed will help give Cottrell – 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds – a chance to immediately contribute this fall at A-back, where the Yellow Jackets will likely need to count on one or more first-year freshmen to contribute.
“As a freshman going in, you want to play some,” he said. “That’s a huge goal. That’d be over the top if I got to do that, but, really, just going into it, my goal right now is just to work hard this summer, get through the summer and get through camp and all that and just see how things go.”
With the dismissal of A-back Dennis Andrews, Tech’s top four at A-back are Isiah Willis, Broderick Snoddy, Qua Searcy and Clinton Lynch. Searcy and Lynch are redshirt freshmen, and Searcy was switched to the position in the spring. Willis received scattered reps last season. Snoddy played increasing amounts before his broken-leg injury in November. (Snoddy was declared "full go" by coach Paul Johnson recently.) The opportunity is there for Cottrell and the slew of incoming freshmen at A-back.
“(Coaches) said, 'There’s going to be opportunities,'” Cottrell said. “'We’re going to need freshmen to step up.'”
Prior to his arrival at Tech earlier this week for the start of summer classes, Cottrell said he was running routes that A-backs coach Lamar Owens had shared with him via e-mail.
“The routes themselves aren’t hard, it’s just the names of them,” he said. “It’s different from what I’m used to. I think we’ll be able to get it done.”
Last fall, Cottrell led Knoxville West to a state title and set the school career rushing record with 3,974 yards. As a senior, he averaged 14.3 yards per carry.
“That’s a big shout-out to the big men up front that blocked,” he said. “Just hard work and not going down on contact, trying to keep the ball rolling, keep the feet moving.”
1. Cottrell ran a leg on his school’s 4x100-meter relay team that finished eighth in the state.
2. He said he had “no clue” what jersey number he will be given. “I wore No. 5 (in high school), but I know I won’t be able to get that one.”
3. He is a car hobbyist. “Ever since I was little, and growing up, I’ve had a huge thing with cars in general. And then, from since I was little, I’ve collected (diecast and model) cars forever.”
4. His principal recruiter was offensive line coach Mike Sewak.
5. Cottrell received his offer from Tech from Johnson at a Tech camp last June. After Johnson brought Cottrell up to his office and made the offer, Cottrell and his two high school coaches sat outside Johnson’s office for two or three hours, long after Johnson had left, talking and praying over the decision. He committed the next day. “It just felt right," he said. "There was something there, and I’ve felt the same ever since.”
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