BOWLING GREEN Typically, guys who end up playing linebacker are big, strong, tough … and not necessarily known for showing a softer side on the field.
Bowling Green redshirt senior linebacker Nate Locke is bucking that trend with his selection to the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. At 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Locke is a stout presence on the second level of the Bowling Green defense. Away from the field, he’s busy volunteering with a number of organizations that serve everyone from students with special needs to poor children in foreign countries.
“Growing up, my parents always just taught me to be pretty well-rounded and to give back and always be involved in the community,” Locke said. “Early on, I did a lot of stuff with the church and community and youth group and when I got to high school, I was in National Honor Society and doing volunteer stuff with them, and became a freshman mentor doing numerous things there.”
When he made the jump to college, Locke didn’t do as much volunteer work. With the time demands of being a Division I athlete, when NCAA rules allow teams 20 hours a week of official football activities, and classes, Locke had a lot on his plate. He eventually became involved with a campus church ministry called H20 church and led a Bible study for the church.
That experience depend his faith and also reinforced the idea of serving others.
“By getting involved, I learned that my purpose on this earth was to love people and serve humanity. I wanted to do literally anything I could do to help out for a day or for years. At first, I volunteered as a production volunteer with the church, so set up all the electric and sound for events,” Locke said.
He also became involved with Fellowship of Chrisitan Athletes and became president of the BG chapter of the organization. That led him to take a missions trip to Guatemala to work with children in a rural area.
His FCA role also took Locke to high school leadership camps and to those efforts, he added volunteer time with Feed My Starving Children, a Christian non-profit that provides nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children. He also took a Beach Reach Mission Trip and helped lead sports camps locally in the Bowling Green area.
One of the most moving experiences for Locke was his time helping with RallyCap Sports, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing recreational sports programs for people with special needs.
“We went to a school for kids with special needs and were able to play football with them,” Locke said. “I really felt my purpose was to serve and love on people who may have never been loved that much.”
Getting involved with so many different causes and organizations in addition to football and school has made for a busy schedule. While student-athletes sometimes don’t take a large number of credit hours during the season, being a full-time student means a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.
“Football is really a full-time job and sometimes I’ve taken 18 credit hours a semester, so I had to learn to manage my time well,” Locke said. “Once you form a habit and get into a rhythm, it becomes not so difficult to do, but at times I said yes to too much and would get two hours of sleep a night.”
While the idea of getting recognized for his community service efforts wasn’t in the forefront of his mind, Locke obliged when a football compliance staffer asked him to send his resume and photos of him volunteering. The staffer told him they would be submitted for the Allstate Good Works Team, but Locke didn’t know much about it.
When he was picked, he found out that the program has existed since 1992 and is one of the best-known community service awards in college football, bringing together select student-athletes from all divisions of play to honor their dedication to volunteerism and enriching the lives of others.
Those who are nominated are selected, according to Allstate, for “uniting the college football community and showing what’s possible when you put all hands in and give back.”
The honor came after a junior season in which Locke was tabbed as a Mid-American Conference Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-MAC and played in all 12 games, starting the final three of the season. He recorded 28 tackles, including a season-best eight tackles at Akron in a win that started a three-game winning streak to close the season.
After redshirting his freshman year, he’s played in 39 games and made the Academic All-MAC team every season. As he nears his final season of football, Locke is continuing to use the sport and the opportunities it provides as a launching point to make a positive impact on the world around him. Wherever his psychology degree takes him after graduation, Locke is determined to continue the mission of service he’s been on since high school and prove that a linebacker can have a soft side - when needed, of course.
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