Juggling the rigors of the classroom with a full-time job on the college football field is never easy.
Samford linebacker Nathan East is taking it to another level. East, the Bulldogs' lone preseason All-Southern Conference first-team selection, is back for his sixth season with the program. He’s also in his second year in the stringent Physical Therapy Program at Samford and is a newlywed.
Unfortunately, there are still only 24 hours in a day.
“It was interesting trying to get that routine down,” said East, a McAdory High graduate, who married his high school sweetheart, Raeley, in May. “Study habits are a lot different than it was in undergrad. Once the season got rolling, if I can make it through that fall season and class, I felt like I could do it in the offseason and do it again this year. It’s been interesting. It’s been a little tough. I wouldn’t change it.”
East began the extra juggling last fall during his first semester in the PT program. Fortunately, he had a lot of support.
“Really, the coaches worked with me a good bit,” East said. “There were times I might show up late to meetings because I had class that runs into meeting time. Traveling to away games was tough because I had class on Friday afternoon. Sometimes I had to travel without the team. Really working with the coaches and my professors working with me, just doing what I had to do to get it done.”
On the field, East has been getting it done for a long time. After a redshirt in 2017, he has played in 40 of the team’s 41 games. He had a team-high 97 tackles last season with 7.5 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries. In the 2021 spring season, East had a team-best 68 tackles. In the fall of 2019, he had 82 tackles.
You get the picture. If you want to find East on the football field, you look for the football.
However, he’s part of a defense that struggled in the fall of 2021. The Bulldogs allowed at least 50 points twice, gave up more than 40 points three more times and dropped a 70-52 decision at Florida. Opponents averaged 260 yards passing and 243 yards rushing per game.
It’s hard to win games that way.
“Whether you make one tackle or 20 tackles, if you give up 45 in a loss, it’s pointless,” said East, who had a season-best 15 tackles against The Citadel, double-digit tackles three more times and nine stops vs. Florida. “Really, defensively, if you have one guy doing the wrong thing, the whole play can be a bust. It can be a score. (We’re) just trying to keep everybody doing their job, everybody focused every play. The way our offense is, the defense is on the field a lot. It can be hard sometimes. Fatigue sets in, maybe a little focus falls off. I think emphasizing that throughout the week, throughout the season, getting everybody focused on doing their job to win ball games.”
East carries a little more motivation into this season. He was chosen the Charles Williams Memorial Jersey Winner and will wear No. 5 this season. The honor pays tribute to former Bulldog Charles Williams, who died in a car accident in 2003. East is the 18th Samford player to receive the honor.
“It’s just an honor,” East said. “I know it means a lot to his family, seeing that No. 5 on the field. It’s an honor seeing the leaders that come before me who have worn it. It puts a little bit of pressure on me that I appreciate and look forward to being the leader on the field.”
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