You'll often find that while offensive linemen are some of the most unheralded players on a football team, they are usually the most colorful and charismatic. Exhibit A: Dennis-Yarmouth senior left tackle Nate Crary, a 6-foot-5, 319-pound road grader who just happens to be one heck of a smart guy. Not only is he one of the biggest 17-year-old kids on the Cape, he's maintained straight A's throughout his high school career.
Crary also happens to have a great nickname, "Sea Monster". He was dubbed so during his first days of freshman football, and the name has stuck like a glove, with everyone from friends to teachers referring to him as such. And if he continues to perform like he did in last Friday's win over Taunton (no sacks allowed), Division 1 colleges will be diving into the sea for his services. Crary sat down with ESPNBoston.com this week to talk about his colorful nickname, the importance of good footwork, and the misleading nature of the critically-acclaimed "Jersey Shore".
The Dolphins host Cape Cod rival Barnstable tomorrow night, in what ought to be a shootout. But without further ado, here's the Sea Monster...
Q: How did 'Sea Monster' come about?
A: "Our defensive coordinator, coach (Tom) Campbell...I came out freshman year, really didn't know anyone, and coach Campbell comes up to me and goes 'What's your name?' I go 'Nate Crary', and he says, 'You know what, you're like a monster. But...sea monster! Yeah, sea monster.' And it just stuck."
Q: Seems like you've embraced it.
A: "Yeah, I like it. It's a fitting nickname for me."
Q: You moved to Dennis in the sixth grade from Cranford, N.J., which is about an hour from the shore. What is your reaction when you see 'Jersey Shore'?
A: "All I think is, that's typical Long Island people, and Westchester. It's usually not like that on the Jersey Shore. There's alot of 'guido' looking people, but you get all kinds down there."
Q: In terms of development, what's the biggest jump you've had to make on the varsity?
A: "Definitely my footwork. As a big guy, footwork is definitely key. You've got to be quick, you've got to know what you're doing, and you've got to move. That's what I've been working on these past four years."
Q: So how's the footwork now?
A: "I'd say it's pretty good right now. Gotten alot better since my freshman year, that's for sure."
Q: What goes into developing your footwork?
A: "Off-season, I do alot of agility drills, ladders, speed ladders, all kinds of footwork drills. As a team, we do circuits to improve everything."
Q: With the beach so close, how much does that come into your training?
A: "A little. I like being with the guys, though. I think the team aspect in the weight room is a big thing. It brings us close, we get that camaraderie."
Q: You guys like to throw. How important is having the right posture on that first step and punch?
A: "All-important. If you're leaning forward, he'll just toss you. The d-lineman, if he's good, he'll just toss you or juke you out. So, you've got to get yourself up there, and you've got to be square and you've got to be ready. Especially at tackle, you've got to be ready for that outside rush, you've got to be ready for that quick cut-back inside, so you've got to be centered so you can move either way."
Q: Individually, what kind of goals have you set for yourself this year?
A: "As a team, I'm hoping to go undefeated, and then go to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl's going to be a week before my birthday I think, so that'll be a nice birthday present for me. Individually, I'm really hoping to improve my footwork more, get stronger, so I can go out and play some college ball."
Q: Tomorrow night, you've got Barnstable, usually one of the most anticipated games of the season for both sides. How important is the tradition in this rivalry?
A: "Totally important. It's going to be a hard game. They're a good team. It's a cross-Cape rival, so we're ready. We've been preparing mentally and physically. We've got to bring it, we've got to stick it to them tomorrow night."
Q: What are your emotions, typically, before a game?
A: "Usually, the linemen will all be together, and we'll listen to our pregame music. We'll sit in front of our lockers, and talk and converse. The linemen will be left for about 15 minutes (most teams bring their skill players out to warmups first), we like to just sit there and be silent. I like to let the music get inside of me, get revved up for that first hit. Just get it all out. And then, I'm ready."
Q: And when you make that first hit, what's going through your head?
A: "Just...you've got butterflies. You come out, you run out, and all the cheerleaders, everyone's cheering, you've got thousands of people cheering for you, and I get butterflies and I'm all nervous. But once I get out there, once I get that first hit, it's like 'Alright, it's game time'. Now, it's...there it is, that first big hit and you're like 'Yes'. Adrenaline's flowing, you've got everything."
Q: What's on your iPod when you're in there listening to music before the game?
A: "Well, we listen to our other tackle's iPod usually, and he's got alot of rap. But I'm more of a classic rock guy -- Pink Floyd, The Who, that kinda stuff. The good stuff."
Q: You look the part, if you don't mind me saying.
A: "(laughs) Yeah, I get that often."
Q: As far as recruiting, where are you getting looked at?
A: "I'm getting looked at from Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Tufts, Wesleyan, all the NESCAC schools. I visited Cornell this summer, too, went to their camp."
Q: You're a straight-A student and you've taken every AP class offered at your school. What's your favorite subject?
A: "History. I love history. I love learning about what happened in the past, so that we don't reproduce it in the future, that's for sure. There's so much to learn in history...I love learning about World War II. There's so much condensed into just a few years -- and all over the world, too. It's amazing."