NFL May Call on Yale's Tower of Power

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Nate Lawrie '04, one of Yale's most distinguished gridiron greats in recent times, is shaping himself for the April 24-25 National Football League Draft.

Before the 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end and punter has his name called on draft day, numerous NFL executives and coaches who have been calling for information will thoroughly scrutinize his background in search of things that make him stand out among the hundreds of college seniors who happen to be his size.

The pro folks will find some interesting things when they dig into Lawrie's past. To start, this Bulldog accomplished a rare feat for an Ivy League athlete by competing in two collegiate football all-star contests, the Blue-Gray and Las Vegas All-American Classics. He was invited to these professional football showcases because he broke the school season (72) and career (116) record for receptions by a tight end and was Yale's top offensive line performer six times in 10 weeks during the 2003 campaign.

The unmistakable white helmet with its block-letter "Y" was easily detected watching ESPN2 on Christmas Day in the 65th edition of the famous Blue-Gray Classic at Troy, Ala., as Yale's tower of power ran pass routes and made crisp blocks against some of the nation's finest collegiate talent. A few weeks later at a new all-star event in the desert, Lawrie further displayed his skills.

"Playing in the Blue-Gray Game was an amazing experience. I was a little nervous going in, but after I got into practices and started interacting with the other players, it all felt natural to me," said Lawrie, who may find a better fit as a free agent than as a player taken in one of the seven rounds of the draft. "There were a lot of good players to compete with and against, but I didn't feel like I was outmatched in anyway. It was a lot of fun for me to test my skills against some of the best players from around the country."

Lawrie, who also distinguished himself as a thrower for the track & field team by scoring in all four events against Harvard two years ago, earned spots on the I-AA All-America first teams of the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and I-AA.org (official site of I-AA football) while also becoming a first-team All-Ivy and All-ECAC pick.

"Nate has completely dedicated himself physically and mentally to preparing himself for the upcoming NFL Draft. The proof of that is the fact that Nate now weighs more (264) and runs faster (4.8 - 40 yd dash) than he ever has during his college career," said Jason Novak, Yale's head strength and conditioning coach. "He is working with a professional training team in Indianapolis specially geared toward preparing him for the NFL workouts and the draft. I have noticed remarkable gains by him each week he returns from Indy."

We are talking about a player who went from three catches as a sophomore to 41 as a second team All-Ivy selection in 2002 and then bumped it up another 31 receptions last fall to move into No. 2 on the Yale all-time receiving list. All of this was accomplished while he also served as the team's top punter; he booted 40 balls for a 35-yard average in 2003.

"In four years Nate has gone from a big kid with potential to a bona fide NFL draft pick. He excelled in our offense as a run blocker and pass catcher and realized his potential through commitment to the off-season program," said Yale head coach Jack Siedlecki.

"I always believed I had the potential to do great things on the football field. I have had a lot of sound coaching from a very young age and I was blessed with great size," said Lawrie, who is currently throwing for the Bulldogs while preparing for the draft. "For me to have two great seasons as a starter, I knew that I had to continue to work hard and listen to my coaches. They allowed me to develop into the player that I am today."

Lawrie, who owns the second most catches in a game for a Yalie with 16 against I-AA runnerup Colgate, was an all-state gridiron performer as well as a track standout at Roncalli High in Indianapolis.

"I am going to try and throw as much as possible in the outdoor season. I want to treat this track season just like the rest, but there are definitely going to be some differences."

Preparing for what should be a wonderful opportunity in professional football would certainly make this spring different for Lawrie and the Bulldogs.

by Steve Conn, Yale Assistant AD/Sports Publicity Director