It took some persuasion, but Nate Guthrie proved his high school football coach right.
When practice opens today at Whitworth University, the former East Valley offensive tackle will take his place as the Pirates’ most experienced offensive lineman – a three-year starter.
“When Nate was a senior, the Whitworth coach, John Tully, came by and said he wanted to recruit two players off our team,” said East Valley coach Adam Fisher. “He wanted our running back and he wanted one of our defensive backs. I told him that there was one more player on our team that he should talk to, because if he took him, he’d for sure be a starter for him.”
Tully followed Fisher’s advice, and Guthrie played on special teams for Whitworth as a true freshman. After a redshirt season and a shift from the defensive to the offensive line, Guthrie started every game as a sophomore and junior.
“We had a volunteer assistant coach who was taking classes at Whitworth,” Fisher said. “He came to practice one day and said ‘Coach Tully told me to tell you that you were right about Nate.’ ”
The choice to attend Whitworth wasn’t about playing football, however, Guthrie says.
“I could have gone to a number of different Division III colleges in the Northwest to play football,” he said. “Academics played a big part in my decision. Plus I really wanted to stay close to home. The fact that I could keep playing football was a bonus.”
At 6-feet-1 and 250 pounds, Guthrie is not a typical offensive tackle – a fact he quickly points out. So it’s understandable that he initially slipped under the radar.
To fully appreciate what he can do, you must watch him over a series of plays. While he may not stand out on any single play, over time you realize that he just gets the job done.
“I’m never going to overpower anyone,” Guthrie said. “I’m not going to bull rush very many defensive linemen. But I have pretty good footwork and I’m pretty athletic for my size. And what’s key for me, I think, is that I know how to use my hands properly. I know where to put my hands to help me control the guy in front of me.”
The Pirates are counting on Guthrie to help lead a young offensive line.
“When I got moved from defense to the offensive line, it was pretty much a move to fill a pretty desperate need,” he said. “We didn’t have much depth on the offensive line that year. This year we’re pretty young again. Last year we had a lot of seniors starting on the offensive line and most of the guys behind them didn’t see a whole lot of playing time.
“But we have some really good talent to work with this year. I like what we have and I think we can be very good as a unit once we get some experience.”
Guthrie said he’s comfortable with his role as a leader.
“I’m not going to be the kind of guy who yells a lot and I’m not much of a rah-rah kind of a guy,” he said. “I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of player. I will go out there every day and work as hard as I can and set a good example. I’ll get my work done on the field and in the weight room. That’s how I can be a leader.”
On the field, Guthrie likes what the Pirates return from a year ago.
Senior running back Ronnie Thomas was a first-team All-Northwest Conference selection last year after rushing for 1,044 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season at Whitworth.
“He’s a different kind of a runner than what we had when I was in high school,” Guthrie said. “He’s much more of a power runner. He’s very capable of powering through a hole even if you don’t completely get your block. He’s pretty easy to block for that way.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction blocking for a good running back. When they get into the end zone, that’s about as close to actually scoring yourself as most linemen get.”
As quarterback the Pirates return sophomore starter Bryan Peterson. The West Valley grad assumed the starting job midway through his freshman season and still managed to earn an all-conference honorable mention nod by throwing for 1,420 yards and 14 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
“He brings a lot to the offense,” Guthrie said. “He can do a lot of things for this offense. I think he has a chance to really be something special. I’m excited about it.”
For himself, Guthrie admits to already thinking about a day in the not-too-distant future when he will no longer cut his summer short to start football practice, and spend his fall nursing the aches and pains, sprains and strains of weekly games.
“Kind of hard to believe that this is the last year I’m ever going to play football,” he said. “I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of looking forward to not playing.”
At first, he said, he’d planned for a future in engineering. Now he’s preparing to become a high school or middle school math teacher and, perhaps, a football coach.
“I’m excited about teaching,” he said. “I had hoped that I might be able to do my student teaching next year at East Valley, but I just found out that you can’t student teach where you went to school.
“I would like to coach football. I think I would enjoy doing that. It’s something to look forward to.”