ATHENS — Nate McBride remains something of a Georgia football fan favorite entering his junior season, still fighting to earn playing time on defense while embracing his role on special teams.
McBride was a bonafide blue-chip prospect in the 2017 class with offers from Alabama, Auburn and Clemson, and some felt a sure-fire impact player.
But McBride, a 6-foot-2, 223-pounder from “The Sweet Onion City” of Vidalia, made it clear no one need be shedding tears for him.
“We’re number 3 in the country, so there’s a lot of good players everywhere you look,” McBride said, explaining the level of competition at inside linebacker. “I’m blessed, and just like my dad told me, it’s not when you want to get out there, it’s when God wants to get out there. That’s the main thing, that’s what I’ve got to keep in my head.
“Right now, special teams is my main role and that’s what I’m going to do with my ability.”
McBride is bought in, 100 percent, and that was obvious in how he talked about Coach Kirby Smart and his teammates during his media interview on Monday.
“The little things are really what (Smart) harps on the most, (that) you forget the little things and that adds up to the big things,” McBride said.
“Picking up that blitz that Zamir (White) did, and George (Pickens) blocking on the edge. Yeah, he made that great catch, that was crazy, but blocking on the edge is what helps the team goals.”
And that is what McBride is determined to do himself, even while his fans clamor for him to get more opportunities in the linebacking corps.
“I enjoy special teams because it helps me get on the field,” said McBride, a former state champion in the 100 and 200 meters. “Everybody notices the quarterbacks and DBs, but special teams can get you to the pros by itself. You see Jayson Stanley, he didn’t get many snaps on offense, but he was all the way on special teams and he had a great preseason with the (Atlanta) Falcons.”
McBride is on the kickoff and punt return units for the Bulldogs, but he said his role on punt return varies each week.
As for playing behind starting inside linebackers Monty Rice and Tae Crowder, and second team players Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker, McBride just digs in and does his best every day.
“We’ve got some talent, I’ll tell you that, and each year it’s going to get better and better,” McBride said. “You see the freshman, you’ve got Nolan Smith, you’ve got George (Pickens) you’ve got Nakobe (Dean), it’s unbelievable, the talent we get each year.
“Then the sophomore Quay Walker has stepped up a lot, and I’m happy for him, he’s worked like everyone else,” McBride said. “I’m at Georgia. I know there’s going to be competition, and our recruiting class (2017) started the movement, I guess you could say. You just have to come out every week and do your best.”
No doubt, and it’s players like McBride that help keep teammates locked in for opponents like Murray State and this week’s foe, Arkansas State (TV: ESPN2, noon).
“You’ve got to approach it like they were national champions last year, because you never know each week if you slip up, that team could be good enough to upset you,” McBride said. “We pride ourself on working each week as if we were playing in the national championship.”
McBride might not yet be the impact player some envisioned, but his team attitude and special teams prowess is making the kind of impact championship are built around.