I BELIEVE I CAN FLY — Nate Wolcott looks for a hole, as he runs down a fourth-quarter interception during the S-GI homecoming game on Sept. 29. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — One of the mottoes of the coaching staff in the Springville-Griffith Institute football program is that sometimes football games are won and lost, in the offseason. While each and every team around Western New York strives to execute and play a sound 48 minutes of football, each and every game, sometimes success stretches far beyond just how well a player performs on the gridiron. Springville-GI senior Nate Wolcott knows exactly that. Wolcott transformed himself by offseason work in nine months, to become one of Springville’s most important assets, according to Springville head coach John Sopko.
“He carried what he did last year, as a junior, to the offseason,” said Sopko. “He’s really made himself a more capable player, with his strength and the overall shape he’s in. That’s allowed him to be more productive with his athletic ability. When camp started in August, he really stood out amongst the rest of the team, because he made himself available in the offseason and he really improved.”
The numbers don’t lie, either. As a junior, Wolcott weighed 150 pounds. As a senior, he’s a 6-foot tall, 175-pound standout, contributing on both sides of the ball, according to his coaches.
Assistant coach and defensive coordinator for Springville Rob Valenti recalled improvements by Wolcott, even before this year. Last year, Wolcott made his first start of his varsity career against Eden in week two.
Early in the first quarter, Wolcott made the mistake of letting an Eden player get behind him on a pass play and it resulted in a touchdown. Six weeks later, in the quarterfinals against Eden, Wolcott avenged the early season blunder and intercepted the ball on the same play that burned him in week two.
“I always point that out, because that’s a testament to how much he works,” said Valenti, about the difference in those two plays. “In week two, he blew his tendency, he blew his key, he let a receiver get behind him and it resulted in a touchdown. I never hesitated to tell that story, because he progressed through the quiet focus that he has, with that introspection. We played Eden again in the playoffs, and it’s the same pass play, but this time, he sees the tendency, he reads the key and comes up with a big play. That just tells the story that he’s always moving, he’s always hungry, and he’s always getting after it. He simply won’t make the same mistake twice. He refuses to.”
In the beginning of last year, Wolcott was not starting on either side of the ball, through camp and the first week of the season. He was playing in certain packages that involved nickel or dime defense, according to Valenti.
Later, he took over the starting safety role against Eden and played the final eight games of the season there. He led the team with two interceptions, both coming in playoff games that helped Springville advance the Class B Championship game.
“He wanted that role more than anything, last year, and he earned it, “added Valenti.
Capitalizing on his junior year, Wolcott took to the gym and had his most productive offseason of his career. The gym rat put nearly 500 pounds onto his four lift total.
Springville accesses four core lifts, three times a year, to see who is putting the time in to get bigger, faster and stronger, Sopko said. A member of the 1,000-pound club, Wolcott finished among the top 10 lifters in every lift. His nearly 400-pound squat was good for second place, in the entire football program.
Along with his strength numbers, Wolcott knocked two tenths of a second off his 40-yard dash time, in nine months, with a 4.7 mark in August. The speed improvement was aided by Wolcott’s competing in outdoor track for the first time, last spring. Nate qualified for Section VI Championships in the pentathlon and nearly broke the school record in the triple jump.
“I like him as a ‘look what you can do story’,” said Sopko, about the workout warrior. “He committed and then invested himself in that offseason work. He’s had that opportunity to showcase that, on both sides of the ball, this year.”
Wolcott had not contributed on both sides of the ball, since junior varsity. As a senior, he has taken over a role on offense at the runningback position. Through four games, Wolcott has had more carries than he had, all of last year. Nate is averaging 10 yards a carry on the year.
His most offensive production came in week three, against Depew. Late in the third quarter, Wolcott took the handoff on a read-option, reversed field and took off for a 36-yard touchdown run. Wolcott will take on an even larger role, this week, against East Aurora as starting running back; Tyler Conklin will be sidelined because of an injury.
Wolcott had not contributed on both sides of the ball since junior varsity. As a senior, he has taken over a role on offense at the running back position. Through 5 games, Wolcott has had more carries than he had all of last year. Nate is averaging 10 yards a carry on the year. His most offensive production came in Week 5 against East Aurora. Late in the 2rd quarter, he scored the game’s only touchdown on a 15 yard run. Wolcott led Springville in rushing filling in for the injured Tyler Conklin.
In addition to his offensive and defensive duties, he also returns kicks and punts for the Griffin’s. He nearly scored off a stellar 64-yard punt return but the touchdown was called back on a penalty. Two weeks earlier against Depew, Wolcott took the handoff on a read-option, reversed field and took off for a 36 yard touchdown run.
In addition to his offensive and defensive duties, Wolcott contributes on special teams returning kicks and punts for the Griffins.
He also plays varsity basketball, under coach Frank Noeson, in addition to track and football. Wolcott is the brother of Matt Wolcott, who graduated in 2012, and was an all-league quarterback for Springville. Matt Wolcott was a part of Springville’s rebuilding of the program, after leading the Griffins to its first winning season since 2005, as a senior.
When it comes to grades, Nate Wolcott is a high-honors student and is considering attending Gannon University, St. John Fisher University, Daemen College and Duquesne University with plans to become a physician’s assistant, according to Wolcott.
“He’s very attractive to colleges, with his grades and athletic ability,” added Sopko, about his senior standout.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Nate. I’m proud of his own emergence of making a name for himself. It’s a challenge to be the younger brother of an all-league quarterback, a standout captain. I’m just so proud of Nate’s investment in hard work and how he’s distinguishing himself, as his own identity.”
Nate is the son of John and Christine Wolcott.