ATHENS – The term Isaac Nauta used to describe the decision was “pure impulse.” The football season was just getting underway, and the Georgia tight end decided to dye his hair blonde. So blonde it’s almost white.
“There’s so much stress in this life you never know when my hair is going to go,” Nauta said. “So I want to do something with it while I can.”
Someone asked Nauta what his mom thought about it.
“She did it,” Nauta said. “She’s a former hairstylist. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it.”
The hairdo earned positive reviews from teammates.
“It matches his personality,” senior receiver Javon Wims said. “He’s a peacock, gotta let him fly.”
But about that … the peacock hasn’t quite taken flight. That only tells part of the story, he insists.
A preseason All-SEC pick, Nauta is on pace to finish well below his freshman year stats (29 catches for 361 yards). Midway through the regular season, he only has five catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
Nauta sees that more a product of Georgia’s offense, and in a good way.
“We really haven’t had to pass it a whole lot, because we’ve got a line that’s been playing real physical, and we’ve got Sony (Michel), Nick (Chubb), D’Andre (Swift), Elijah (Holyfield), these guys are running the ball like crazy,” Nauta said. “That switches it up a little bit.
“But this is also the SEC and we know that we’re going to have to throw it at some point. So we’re grinding at practice, and we’re making sure we’re getting those reps so we’re prepared to throw it when we need to.”
Nauta’s blend of size (6-foot-4, 246 pounds) and athleticism will make him an inviting target if and when Georgia’s passing game opens up. He showed that against Mississippi State, getting open down the seam for a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown. It was a reminder of some of his big moments last year.
But he has just 36 yards the rest of the season.
“I feel like I’ve been good getting open,” said Nauta, who has seen more man coverage and double-teams this season. “But really the biggest thing is we’re taking shots, and guys are making plays, and it seems like sometimes we score three plays into a drive, and then we run it down the field on the next drive. So it’s all about opportunities, and when they come your way you’ve got to make them.”
That doesn’t mean Nauta has just been sitting around. He’s been very involved in the offense as a blocker – and deriving enjoyment out of it. He recalled putting a Notre Dame defender on his back at one point.
While the receiving stats aren’t there compared to last year, in a way this season has been more successful as far as being an overall tight end. There have been less mistakes, less missed assignments, and more physical overall.
“It’s a blast when you do a pancake block and you look up and see Chubb taking it to the house,” Nauta said. “Running the ball is a very rewarding deal because you work so hard on it, and it’s so physical that when it breaks your way it’s a great feeling.”