football Edit

Isaac Nauta exit interview

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Albeit resulting in a loss, the recently departed Isaac Nauta says his 50-yard touchdown reception against Tennessee in 2016—his first touchdown as a Bulldog—was his "favorite moment" while playing for Georgia.

For Isaac Nauta, the greatest lesson learned while at Georgia was one he came to realize and appreciate only recently—and when his playing days as a Bulldog tight end had already ended.

“Enjoy the journey [of being a collegiate athlete] because that’s where the happiness is,” Nauta recently informed UGASports.com. “You’re so busy, and some days are really hard—but you have to enjoy the process of it all.”

Selected just over a week ago in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions, Nauta became only the third Georgia tight end the last 12 years to be chosen in the NFL Draft. Still, although he clearly has his sights set on playing professional football, he has some regrets concerning his Bulldog career.

“For me, every time in my life, including my time at Georgia, I rushed to a certain point to accomplish goals,” Nauta said. “But, the more time I’ve had to reflect on it, I wish I had just slowed down and enjoyed certain moments more than I did.”

Nauta, who remains one of only two tight ends since 2008 to be distinguished by Rivals as a five-star prospect, was a one-time Florida State commit while attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Nevertheless, he spurned the Seminoles and committed to Georgia in January of 2016 soon after the Bulldogs made a program-changing hire.

“When Coach [Kirby] Smart got the job, that was the final thing which pushed me toward Georgia—and pretty much shut down my recruitment,” Nauta said. “I knew the kind of coach he was and what he was going to be able to do for the team.”

Despite playing at Georgia for just three seasons, and while the Bulldogs’ offense was often criticized for not throwing enough to their tight ends, Nauta made 68 career receptions—the fifth-most in UGA football history for tight ends—for 905 yards and eight touchdowns.

Nauta admitted the switch from student-athlete to working professional would take some getting used to.

“When I was training before the draft, it kind of hit me that I’m out on my own now—and I’ve got to make it,” Nauta said. “I have only one way to go—and that’s forward—to play this sport as long as I can do it. It’s a scary realization—but an exciting one because I’m living out a dream.”

And, whether sooner or later, when Nauta’s dream of playing football does come to an end, he should be just fine—in good standing—because of another valuable lesson he learned while at Georgia.

“From my experience while playing at Georgia, there are so many people around who want to help and take care of you,” Nauta said. “My advice for others in a similar situation is to make as many connections as possible while you’re in school. This football thing doesn’t last forever.”

“My advice for others in a similar situation is to make as many connections as possible while you’re in school. This football thing doesn’t last forever.”
— Isaac Nauta

Q&A with Nauta


Who was the toughest opposing player you ever faced?

“A guy who gave me fits my freshman year was [Tennessee defensive end] Derrick Barnett. He was a really good player—and I think he gave everyone fits that game. He had a high motor on him.”

Who was the hardest hitter you ever faced?

“Missouri linebacker Terez Hall hit me really good once when I was trying to go past him and he tried to reroute me. He hit me so hard with a punch that it gave me an AC sprain in my shoulder. Oh, I know another one—[linebacker] Rashaan Evans of Alabama, who plays for the Tennessee Titans now. He’s a guy that brought it the whole game—no doubt.”

What was your favorite food from the dining hall?

“We had really good fried chicken and cornbread. Our fried chicken was off the chain. Our cornbread was unbelievable, like a dessert—like cake.”

Who was the funniest teammate of yours?

“To me, Jeb [Blazevich] was hilarious. He is a character! But, from my final year, on offense, Brian Herrien is probably the funniest guy. He cracks me up. On defense, I’d say, either Divaad Wilson or Richard LeCounte. Both of those guys can crack you up. And, usually those guys who are funny are quick-witted, so they’re good trash-talkers too.”

Who was the toughest of all your Georgia teammates?

“This past year, I’d probably say [Jonathan] Ledbetter. He played the whole game and not necessarily healthy the entire time. He was a grinder, for sure.”

Pound-for-pound, who was the overall strongest of all your teammates?

“It’s probably Mecole [Hardman]. He’s just one of those freaky guys who is not very heavy but can move a lot of weight.”

What team was your most hated rival?

“For me, it’s got to be either Florida or Auburn. I can’t stand Florida because they generally think that they’re much better than they are. As far as Auburn, well, I just couldn’t stand them either. Going into college, I really didn’t hate any team because I hadn’t really been a fan of any team. But, when we lost to Auburn [in 2017], my hate went berserk for them, just like when we had lost to Florida the year before, I hated them. It’s got to be between those two teams. I hate both of them. You know what, I’ll give you a definite: I hate Florida. It’s such an overblown program. I hate Florida the most.”

What was your favorite moment playing for Georgia?

"Although it came in a loss, the touchdown I scored against Tennessee as a freshman [in 2016] was pretty memorable for me. It was not only my first touchdown in college, but it was for 50 yards, and I never thought my first touchdown would cover so much yardage."

Was was the worst loss you were a part of while at Georgia?

"It would be easy to say the [2017 national title game against Alabama], but I’d have to say the second time we played ‘Bama in the SEC title game (2018). For that to happen to us for a second straight time against Alabama, what happened with their quarterbacks [Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa] replacing one another each game, and we were better than them for both games, that loss really hurt."

What was your favorite game while at Georgia?

“The [2018] Rose Bowl against Oklahoma wasn’t necessarily my best game receiving (no receptions), but I blocked really well that game. That win sent us to a national championship game and gave us a sense of accomplishment. We knew we had done something special.”


What was your best play?

“It had to be the ‘Fumble-rooski’ against Tennessee last year (scored a 31-yard touchdown after recovering a teammate’s fumble, whereby the fumble was caused because Nauta missed a block and quarterback Jake Fromm was sacked). I’ve never seen anything like that before, let alone be a part of it. Just the amount of fear I had when I was running that ball, not because someone was about to tackle me but I think I was trying to run away from Kirby [Smart] as far as I could because I knew I had given up a sack.”

What was your strangest recruiting visit, and maybe a noteworthy “pitch” you heard from a school?

"All of my recruiting visits were pretty much straightforward, but I did play basketball with Coach [Nick] Saban (Alabama) when he was trying to recruit me. As far as a pitch I heard, I’m going to refrain from answering that one (laughing)."

Any memorable moment for you during the recruiting process?

"On my visit to Alabama, I met with [then offensive coordinator] Lane Kiffin. At the time, he was apparently about to take a job elsewhere (which he wound up not taking). I was surprised because he pretty much told me he had his foot out the door, but I should still consider Alabama because, and his quote, ’Bama is going to be ‘Bama.' I appreciated his honesty."

Do you remember a funny practice moment while you were at Georgia?

"(Laughing) Beginning my junior year (2018), Coach Smart started carrying a microphone with him during practice. He’d be all the way on the opposite field with the defense, and some of the stuff he’d say to some of those guys over the microphone had us on the offense in absolute tears. Some of those dudes would get absolutely laid into. It’s always funny when it doesn’t happen to you."

Can you name an opposing player you faced who was mostly hype?

"Honestly, I could pop off about 40 of them. But, like before, I think I’m going to refrain from answering that one too."

UGA's All-Time Career Reception Leaders for Tight Ends
No. of Career Catches Tight End (seasons) Receiving Yards Receiving TDs

99

Shannon Mitchell (1990-1993)

1,146

5

94

Orson Charles (2009-2011)

1,370

10

90

Randy McMichael (1999-2001)

1,213

5

80

Larry Brown (1995-1998)

1,077

6

68

Isaac Nauta (2016-2018)

905

8

65

Leonard Pope (2003-2006)

1,044

10

65

Ben Watson (2001-2003)

852

6

56

Arthur Lynch (2009-2013)

907

8