A box of chicken lies on an old but sturdy table. Another box filled with tortillas is getting cold. But Jesse Nading doesn’t want to be impolite – he refuses to eat until he has finished what he has started. In this case, it’s an interview.
Nading has grown accustomed to sacrificing for those around him. Perhaps this is in part because of the sacrifices people have made for him.
“Everybody has sacrificed something for me to get where I am and have the opportunities that I have,” Nading says as he glances at his meal. “Whenever I think about that, it kind of puts things in perspective.”
The funny thing is, perspective is one trait that CSU’s standout defensive end seems to have in abundance. It was perspective that paved the path for the Minnesota native to commit to CSU in the first place.
“I didn’t get the feeling that CSU coaches were trying to be someone that they weren’t during recruitment,” Nading said. “I really felt comfortable with how honest everybody was.”
At six feet five inches tall and 259 pounds, Nading’s warm, direct manner is not typical of an impact defensive player. But Nading is all about results.
As a junior, he was put on the Athlon Sports preseason all-MWC first team. Nading was named to the Ronnie Lott Award watch list, an award given to the nation’s top defensive player. He was also selected to attend the NCAA Leadership Conference last summer.
Despite his list of merits, he is the first to downplay the importance of athletic awards.
“I haven’t done anything to earn them,” Nading said. “As long as we win, I don’t care about the athletic awards.”
Nading’s perspective has also helped him stay focused in the classroom. As a senior in high school, Nading was class valedictorian at ThunderRidge High. In 2005, he was named to the Academic All-Conference team – the one award Nading values.
“It’s cool,” Nading said. “I pride myself on academics and being a well-rounded
student-athlete” – something his parents instilled in him before he arrived at CSU.
“He puts the same drive and focus on achieving academic goals as he does in sports,” said Jay Nading, Jesse’s father.
The junior finance major hopes to continue to get good grades as his classes get harder. He is quick to point out that he is preparing himself academically to fit into the work force.
“It’s fun trying to learn to juggle school with other demands, but it’s a challenge,” Nading said.
Nading is used to challenges, however. As a senior in high school, he played on both sides of the ball at 200 pounds – well undersized for a would-be college lineman. He would need to gain nearly 60 pounds before seeing significant playing time at CSU.
And Nading says his family is his No. 1 support group.
“We never felt like we were making sacrifices for Jesse,” Jay Nading said. “We enjoyed watching him grow.
“Jesse’s success became a big part of our life, and our extended family life.”
Jesse’s aunts, uncles and cousins made it a priority to see him play in high school.
And in high school, Nading’s impact extended beyond the football field.
He developed a relationship with his coach’s 6-year-old son.
“My son idolizes Jesse,” said Joe Johnson, ThunderRidge High head football coach. “He takes the time with kids. He’s just so level-headed and a great influence on kids.”
His old coaches still call every couple of weeks to wish him good luck. His parents still drive to see him play every game.
“I owe it to them, and I owe it to myself to make the best of every opportunity that I have,” Nading said.
By now, his food is cold.
Staff writer Mathew Planalp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.