Feb. 19, 2004
by Katie Baker '05, Yale Sports Publicity Department
Nate Lawrie has a little more on his plate than the average Yale student. In addition to taking five classes, being a member of two varsity teams, and dealing with his upcoming graduation, Lawrie has one other minor commitment: trying to make the National Football League.
And so, during the chaotic and nostalgic time period that is his senior spring, Lawrie finds himself flying back and forth between New Haven and his hometown of Indianapolis as he prepares for one of the most important days leading up to the NFL Draft: his pro day, which will be his chance to show NFL teams what he has to offer them.
Years of playing football and months of focused, intense training both at Yale and at the St. Vincent's Sports Medicine center in Indiana will culminate Saturday February 21 when the 6'7, 256-pound Lawrie participates in the pro day, where between 10 and 20 NFL teams will watch him and other hopefuls run, jump, lift, and play.
"This is the day I've been doing all the training for, basically," said Lawrie over the phone from Indianapolis. "How this weekend goes will really say a lot about my draft status."
The end of Yale's 2003 football season, in which the Bulldogs finished tied for second place in the Ivy League and Lawrie compiled an impressive list of honors and accolades, was just the beginning for the Indianapolis native. For weeks, the tight end has been juggling school and training in an attempt to become bigger, stronger, faster, and better for the big day.
"I'm working with a combine training program here in Indianapolis, and they have set me on a program with a lot of speed work and a lot of lifting," Lawrie said. "I'm working out twice a day, and days when we're not running we're working with position coaches and days we're not lifting we do a lot of functional training and core training."
Several other prospects have been working out with Lawrie in Indianapolis, and he notes that the players have been good about pushing each other in workouts while supporting each other throughout the entire process.
Lawrie, whose size and strength is one of his biggest assets at the tight end position, is typically projected to be a late-round pick. Eli head coach Jack Siedlecki notes that he thinks his player, who won the inaugural Jim Keppel Award for being the team's best offensive back both on and off the field, will be taken between the fifth and seventh round, depending on his workout.
"Obviously he's on everybody's radar screen," Siedlecki said. "Thirty of the 32 teams have come out to practices or games to see him. He has the physical stature, and he's done well versus the competition in the All-Star games he's played in."
Siedlecki noted that although he has coached players both at Yale and Lafayette that have been scouted during their senior seasons, only a few- San Francisco 49ers tight end Eric Johnson included-have generated the type of attention that Lawrie has.
One internet scouting website, the Great Blue North Draft Report run by Colin Lindsay, had good things to say about Lawrie following his performance in the Blue-Grey Game, held on Christmas day. In the site's analysis of the game, Lindsay noted that "the TE we liked was Yale's Nate Lawrie," adding that "Lawrie was easily the best blocking TE on the day, as he consistently drove off the line of scrimmage at the snap, using his long arms to control his man."
Conveniently, the site of much of the NFL testing is in Lawrie's hometown of Indianapolis, which has made the constant travel and relocation easier for him because he is able to live at home, rather than in a hotel, in the weeks where he is away from Yale. Still, the process of being in and out of New Haven for training has its drawbacks, including the fact that Lawrie has had to miss both class and much of his final track season.
"I've had to do a lot of studying here at home and I just have to get the notes from my friends," Lawrie said. "I've been at school for all my midterms, though, and after this weekend I'll basically be there for the rest of the school year."
In addition, Lawrie was able to practice with the track team in the week leading up to the Bulldogs' home meet against Cornell, where he set personal bests in both the weight throw and the shot put. Lawrie's throw in the shot put was also good enough to qualify him for the IC4A championships.
To cope with some of the problems associated with his lifestyle, Lawrie has employed the advice of his former teammate Johnson, who went through a similar process during his Yale football career. Johnson, a 2001 graduate, was drafted in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers and has become a key player for the team.
"He gave me good advice about the process and the mental aspects of it, and how he handled school and training," Lawrie said. "I just talked to him about what he did to prepare for his pro day and what he actually did on the day of to get an idea of what to expect and to prepare myself that way."
The combine will test the participants on a number of athletic skills, from sprinting to bench pressing to agility workouts, in addition to some position-specific catching and route-running assessments.
To prepare, Lawrie said that his training was focused, to a degree, on two major areas: improving his body weight and muscle mass while cutting down on his time in the 40-yard dash. Lawrie has managed to slice his time from over 5 seconds to the 4.8-second range, which he notes is his goal for the weekend.
In the days leading up to the event, Lawrie has been resting to allow his body to recuperate somewhat from the intense workouts he's endured over the past several weeks. He says he feels somewhat anxious in anticipation of the day.
"I've been a little nervous, and it's kinda getting harder to fall asleep," he admits. But I've been training really hard and physically I'm where I need to be to test well. I'll be nervous up until the time I get started but once I get there and get warmed up and instinct takes over, I think I'll be fine."