ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia freshman tight end Isaac Nauta has been at college for a bit more than a month. But he says his transition hasn’t really been that difficult.
He is one of five early enrollees for Georgia and admits he still is trying to adjust to college life. But dorm life and having to be away from home is old hat for Nauta, a Buford, Ga., native who spent his senior season of high school at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Nauta says his time at IMG definitely matured him.
"It was huge," said Nauta, a five-star recruit who was a national top-15 player overall. "Being away from home really taught me a lot of life lessons, how to grow up and deal with things on your own. A lot of guys don't realize how hard that is, and they'll realize it as soon as they enroll."
While he was on his own at IMG, it's not close to being as big as Georgia. Nauta joked about that, saying "just trying to get on a bus is difficult."
He's also finding out about life as a SEC football player, as students recognize him all over campus. He has realized that much is expected when you play for the Georgia Bulldogs. Nauta says he's confident fellow students and fans in general will be happy with him and the team.
"If I do what I've always done, which is play football, then I'll be fine," Nauta said. "But obviously you don't want to come in anywhere and lay an egg. But with a lot of hard work, preparation and trusting what I've done over the last few years, I have no doubt I'll be able to accomplish everything I've wanted to do."
As with fellow early enrollee Julian Rochester, who wants to be like Ndamukong Suh, Nauta has a NFL player comparison.
"I get a lot of comparisons to (Dallas Cowboys tight end) Jason Witten," Nauta said. "Which is a huge one, because that's a Hall of Famer right there. But I try to play like (New England Patriots tight end Rob) Gronkowski. He's obviously a bigger guy than me. As far as height, he's got a couple of inches.
"He's a guy that just always goes up and competes for the ball. He's willing to put his hand down to block and he's a playmaker. I think he's definitely going to go down as one of the best."
The Bulldogs have used the tight end with some regularity in their offense in recent seasons. That said, the highest catch total in a season by a tight end was 30 by Arthur Lynch in 2013.
Enter new coordinator Jim Chaney, who really excites Nauta and is a reason why he's at Georgia.
"I knew I wanted to be in an offense where the tight end can thrive," Nauta said. "Obviously, what he's done with (former Arkansas Razorbacks tight end) Hunter Henry, who just won the Mackey (Award, given to college football's top tight end); he had some big years under Chaney.
"I didn't want to be in a system where I wouldn't be used. Kirby Smart just from the beginning told me he was going to bring in a guy that was going to use me. So that was a big selling point."
In two seasons (2013-14) playing for Chaney, Henry had 65 catches for 922 yards and six touchdowns. Chaney was at Pitt this past season.
Nauta will compete for playing time with two returning tight ends, Jeb Blazevich and Jackson Harris. He says they have been nothing but helpful since he got to campus in January.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
(Feature photo by DAVID BARNES/UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA ATHLETICS)
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