|08-28-2007, 07:25 PM||#1|
Lost In Space
Join Date: Apr 2004
A little three amigo news
I didn't see this posted.
Coaching helps Nattiel heal
Sentinel Staff Writer
August 27, 2007
The scar runs across Ricky Nattiel's right knee -- a horizontal line that can be seen from five yards away, easily. Whenever Nattiel looks down at that leg and sees that mark, he remembers that his NFL career ended too early.
He played for the Denver Broncos from 1987 to 1992, and was a member of the team's famed "Three Amigos" receiving corps, but he may have had a decade-long career if he hadn't cracked his kneecap and needed surgery.
"When Denver released me for that last time, I probably didn't watch NFL football for years," Nattiel said. "I couldn't watch it."
But the former University of Florida star eventually found closure in an unlikely place: Trinity Catholic High in Ocala. In 2001, his former quarterback at UF, Kerwin Bell, offered him an assistant-coaching job at the brand-new high school. Early this year, Nattiel was promoted to head coach when Bell took over the football program at Jacksonville University.
Nattiel, 41, now must deal with high expectations. The Trinity Catholic Celtics won the Class 2B state title in 2005 and finished as the state runners-up last year.
"That standard has been set there," Bell said. "The players recognize that and they work year-round to meet that. Ricky knows who he is. He has a lot of confidence in his abilities as a person and as a coach. I think he'll handle it well."
The Celtics coaching staff includes three other former UF players who logged time in the NFL. Former Miami Dolphins and New York Giants defensive back Jarvis Williams stayed on as the team's defensive coordinator. Former Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers running back John L. Williams works as the running backs coach. Nattiel's nephew, Mike Nattiel, who played for the Minnesota Vikings, is the linebackers coach.
"It really is amazing to have the opportunity to learn from these guys and have them be our coaches," said the team's starting right guard, senior Josh Armstrong. "It would be something if any one of them showed up at our practices to watch, but all four are our coaches."
None of the Celtics players was alive when Nattiel played his last collegiate season in 1986.
But it doesn't matter.
"They run and Google everything now," Nattiel said. "They look up to you. When you say something, they listen."
Nattiel always planned to return to Florida after his playing days. He grew up near Gainesville and starred at Newberry High, and he still has family in the area.
In 2001, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock offered Nattiel a job on the coaching staff at Florida International. But Nattiel decided to stay close to home. College coaching doesn't appeal to Nattiel. Too many hours, he said.
And he's happy living in Gainesville. He works a real estate job during the day, then drives to Ocala in the afternoon for practices.
Last Monday, the Trinity Catholic offense met to go over a scouting report for their preseason classic. When Nattiel walked to a podium to speak, clad in shorts, a gray T-shirt and dusty sneakers, the room fell silent.
"This is your one exhibition game," Nattiel told them, his voice never rising. "It's not like the NFL, where you get four or five. . . . Get your mind made up if you want to play [in the regular season], guys. You've got one exhibition game Friday night."
Nattiel tells his players to enjoy their time on the field, because he knows it can end unexpectedly. In 1989, he played most of the season with a cracked patella, and after the Broncos' loss to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIV, he had a screw implanted to repair the damage. He lost his quickness after that.
On Trinity Catholic's perfectly manicured practice field, though, Nattiel often jogs while he guides his wide receivers through route-running drills and throws them passes.
When they dropped his throws -- and they dropped more than their fair share last Monday -- Nattiel rarely yelled. When he was a freshman at UF in 1983, Coach Charley Pell's screaming only made him more nervous.
About 40 yards away, John L. Williams worked out his running backs with a smile on his face. This is Williams' first coaching job, and he hopes one day to coach his 4-year-old twin sons, John L. Jr. and Javon.
"To get back into the game and enjoy football again, this is my opportunity," Williams said.
He should receive a crash course in coaching this season. The Celtics graduated 26 seniors from their 2006 team, including starting quarterback John Brantley, who's now at UF, and wide receiver Dion Lecorn, who's now at South Carolina.
Nattiel acknowledged the passing game has lost some of its sharpness.
But he still expects to win.
"All we think about here is state championships, period," he said. "That's my only focus."
Josh Robbins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel
|08-28-2007, 07:28 PM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Somewhere in Jersey
Good to see Ricky Nattiel doing well in his post NFL life.
It must be hard for a player to excel in his field and then have it cut short by injury. It's something that us that don't play sports will never, truly understand.
Good for him to get closure and get back in the game, tutoring youngsters.
|08-28-2007, 08:11 PM||#4|
A verbis ad verbera
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Long Beach
he was never very good. Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson were the only good players out of the 3 amigos.
|08-28-2007, 09:12 PM||#6|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: The 505
Pretty amazing to have a high school coaching staff composed of four former NFL players. I thought John L Williams was one hard nosed running back for Seattle. Remember the Broncos playing the Hawks twice a year back then, before they moved to the NFC.