(Ohio Athletics)

Ohio Football’s Nathan Carpenter, Six Years a Bobcat

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In 2010, Nate Carpenter was a redshirt and just beginning his college football career with Ohio. Six years and a few injuries later, the Bobcat safety is still hanging around Athens and making plays for the Bobcats on Saturdays.

And with just under a month until he turns 24, Carpenter is already a grandpa.

At least, that is what his teammates like to jokingly call the senior captain, because it, “feels like he’s been here for about 20 years,” senior cornerback Ian Wells says with a smile.

An unfortunate bout with groin injuries finally sidelined Carpenter in 2014, his first redshirt senior season, but he was fortunate enough for the NCAA to grant him a medical redshirt.

The groin injuries caused Carpenter to call it quits against Marshall, in Ohio’s third game of the 2014 season. The safety first injured his groin in 2013, and had two offseason surgeries before he injured it again the 2014 season opener.

The team captain tried playing through the setback, but he shut himself down for the year, knowing that to earn a medical sixth-year of eligibility, he couldn’t play in more than three games. It was a tough decision for Carpenter to make, especially when he considered that the last game of his college football career could be a 44-14 loss to the Thundering Herd.

“For me mentally and physically, the injury was playing a huge part in my life and I didn’t want to make things worse in my life then and further down the road,” Carpenter says. “My last play in the game was an interception and I felt like that was an acceptable way for it to be my last game.”

Carpenter was skeptical of his chances, but fortunately for him and the Bobcats the gamble paid off, and he was granted another year of athletic eligibility in the offseason.

Though Carpenter wasn’t able to be a leader on the field for the remainder of the 2014 season, he made sure his captain’s presence was felt everywhere else. Because he didn’t have surgery until the end of the season, he was still a large part of the team. He attended meetings, every practice and every game in his best effort to keep his teammates focused and motivated.

When the Bobcats’ 2015 season opened in Idaho, and Carpenter was able to take the field with his teammates, his emotions were at an all-time high.

“That’s the most exhilarating thrill you can honestly get,” he says about running onto the field at Idaho’s Kibbie Dome. “You never know when your last game is going to be your last game. I did not know Marshall was going to be my last game [a year ago] and Idaho could have been my last game, too. I just wanted to leave it all out there while I was out there, and I did just that.”

With an interception, a fumble recovery and five tackles, the Carpenter was back to making plays for the ‘Cats. It was a performance that came as no surprise to defensive coordinator Jim Burrow. Burrow also serves as the safties coach, and he says his six-year safety has knack for causing and recovering turnovers because he is always around the ball.

Carpenter’s solid season has continued, as he’s added another interception and fumble recovery to his season resume to go along with 29 total tackles, a pass-breakup and two pass-deflections.

Solid play on gridiron has been a welcome contribution in his return, but perhaps the biggest addition in his return has been his impact on the cerebral part of the game. Wells says it has been helpful to pick Carpenter’s brain in-game about situations the Bobcats have faced. Burrow says Carpenter’s ability to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Bobcats defense and of the opposition’s offense has been a valuable asset for the coordinator.

Part of that ability comes from Carpenter’s extensive experience in the Bobcats’ defense. With six years spent learning the same system and schemes, he knows the ins and outs of Ohio’s defense, and can communicate the knowledge with his teammates.

“Anytime you can get someone that is as familiar with things as he is, it’s just going to boost my confidence, his confidence and everyone around him as well,” Burrow says. “We can put in things and he’s certainly one of the guys that you can rely on to understand [it] … and he can relay that to the other guys in the safety room but the rest of the defense also.”

On top of the many positives Carpenter’s experience brings to the table, it’s also the source of some comedic relief amongst the team.

Since joining the team, Carpenter has surely picked up some nicknames along the way, but these days “Grandpa” and “Player-coach” are the ones being thrown around the sixth-year man.

Carpenter has been around long enough that, “he can probably tell you some things I am going to say before I say them,” Burrow says.

In definitely his last year as a player for the Bobcats, “Grandpa” is doing his best to take care of his body to stay on the field. Being in graduate school means Carpenter has fewer classes to attend, and that frees up his schedule for more time in the training room to keep healthy.

With four more regular season games, and with hopes for two more postseason games – so far, so good.