Next Generation: Speedy Nate McBride set to play with his hair on fire at UGA

Nate McBride-Georgia-Georgia football
Vidalia High ILB Nate McBride finished up as the nation's No. 6 ILB prospect for 2017.

Mommas do let your babies grow up to be speedy linebackers.

Let them run around the house as soon as they can. Let them scoot off like their hair is on fire.

That sounds like a trite remix of an old country tune. It still fills the gap for Nate McBride and his DawgNation Next Generation story.

The 4-star ILB signee is oh-my-goodness fast.  His parents also let him run wild growing up. It is at least an uncommon way to explain a gear that linebackers aren’t supposed to have.

There are fast linebackers and then there is Vidalia All-American Nate McBride. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

McBride has personal bests of 10.3 seconds (hand-held) in the 100 and 21.6 (laser) in the 200 meters. His best laser time in the 100 meters has been 10.5 seconds.

That’s faster than speedsters like Nick Chubb, Mecole Hardman, Jr. and Demetris Robertson covered the same ground at times in high school.

Reminder: None of those guys line up at linebacker, tip the scale at 232 and also bench press 425 pounds.

“He used to always run around the house at six or seven years old,” his father Jason McBride said. “He’d juke the furniture. That’s what he would call it. He’d use the term ‘juke’ to describe what he’d do to our furniture.”

His mother laughs at that. She claims the family speed as her own because she said his father “has lead in his shoes.”

“But seriously we’ve been watching him since he was little,” Nita McBride said. “From early on the way his body formed, we wondered about him. He was bow-legged a little when he was young. We even took him to the doctor and they did this simple test. He passed or he’d have been in leg braces.”

Just like Forrest Gump in the movies.

Nate McBride (left) is the son of longtime Georgia high school football assistant coach Jason McBride. He’s captured here standing by his father at the U.S. Army All-American jersey ceremony. (Jeff Sentell /

“He’s just been so athletic since he could walk,” Nita McBride said. “But you want to know an interesting fact? He didn’t walk until he was 15 months old. He had a lot of inner ear infections. At 15 months, he was not walking. We had tubes put in his ears and then two weeks later he was running.”

McBride skipped walking. He wanted to run. That just sounds like the way it had to be.

The Vidalia Indian is also proud to have Native Americans in his family.

“Both my grandmother and Nathan’s father’s mother are Native Americans,” his mother said. “They were great athletes. So that might also be where his athleticism comes from. My mother-in-law was a great basketball player and she knows more about football than probably all of us do.”

The early years for Nate McBride

There’s the story of one of his first youth games. McBride was at running back. The left-hander tucked the ball in his left hand and dashed to the right side. When pursuit came his way, he just swapped the ball to his other hand. He transformed his left hand into a mighty stiff arm.

Then he put six points on the scoreboard. His father, a longtime and well-respected defensive coach in Georgia prep football, never taught him that.

Vidalia senior Nate McBride made the AJC’s Super 11 team this year. (Ryan Horne / AJC)

That was all Nate.

“I just sat back and took that all in,” his father said. “That was something he picked up. I guess that was something inside of him. It was just natural for him to do that.”

Disregard the long hair. There’s not a prima donna bone in his body.

His father once pointed out an awards banquet that his son loved to watch “Spongebob Squarepants” cartoons.

“There’s this story from when Nathan was back in middle school,” his father said. “He was playing free safety then. He was the chase down guy. Nathan never played linebacker until he started at 190 pounds when he was a freshman in high school.”

Vidalia outmatched the opponent. Their lines and their running backs were small.

“Their running back came around the corner on Nathan,” his father said. “Perfect drill zone. He had him lined up. Nathan could have really leveled the guy. But what did he do? He just kind of picked him up in the air and sat him out of bounds. He didn’t do anything slick or silly about it. You just conscientiously saw that he wanted to do his job and make the tackle, but also not hurt or kill any of those other kids.”

Major adversity defines character

McBride was the undisputed No. 1 linebacker in the nation heading into his junior year. He just had to be with his size, speed and the vast reels of varsity production.

Prior to his injury, Nate McBride had been rated as a 5-star prospect and the nation’s No. 1 ILB for 2017. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

But his junior year would be a write-off.

McBride was covering UGA rising sophomore Isaac Nauta at the Rivals 5-star Challenge in Baltimore on one rep, but he came out extra crispy.

His competitive fire came out. He thought the wall was padded. It was not.

McBride broke a bone then, but that was a prelude. He would fell asleep at the wheel later that August during the dog days of practice.

It all came to a head. Chinese food for dinner. Thursday practice. School starting back. Studying. Fall practice. McBride fell asleep driving home on one of those South Georgia dirt roads.

His vehicle rammed into a tree. He broke one hand. He re-broke that wrist. That forced him to miss his entire junior year. Both hands had to be encapsulated in casts.

His father called that his son’s “Edward Scissorhands” year.

McBride was also named to the AJC’s “Super 11” team last September. (Ryan Horne / AJC)

“That year really hit Nate in the mouth hard,” Vidalia coach Lee Chomskis said. “You could tell it really affected him. He was really close to our guys.”

His mother saw her son gain something along that lost season.

“I was so proud of the way he handled himself through that,” Nita McBride said. “He started making a list of all the blessings he had the day after that happened. He could have been ‘Oh, woe is me’ with all of that but he wasn’t.”

McBride cried three times because of that accident. The first was when he came out of surgery. It was that painful.

The second was the rivalry game against Toombs County.

“He wanted so bad to play in that game,” his mother said. “Then he cried at our awards ceremony after the season was over. When he shed a tear then, he said he wasn’t crying because he didn’t win anything. He said he was crying because he couldn’t have helped his team do more. He couldn’t be a part of that year and that affected him. When he wasn’t on the field that year, he chose to help lead the team in a different way.”

It was an injury. An accident. But McBride described it as something he will always lament.

Nate McBride (center) was flanked by his father Jason (left) and his mother Nita (right) at his U.S. Army All-American awards ceremony last October. (Jeff Sentell /

“That’s my team,” McBride said. “Those are my brothers. I just felt bad I couldn’t help more and do more to be there for them. But there was nothing to do but learn from it.”

McBride always tried to steer his way around the hyper-crazy world of recruiting so it wouldn’t affect his team. He always found a way to be team first.

“You see loyalty dying around high school football all the time now,” Chomskis said. “You see these 5-stars leave their teams and their towns to go down to IMG Academy and play with strangers. Nate — because of how he was raised and his fine family — just saw his teammates as the most important thing. He always cared about them. He recognized the examples they all set. The effort they all gave. He was never someone you had to prod. He was not only a verbal leader but a leader by example. I think he will be the same way when he gets to Georgia. He will care so much about the unit he plays with.”

The chase for Big Nate

Alabama wanted McBride so badly at one time that he was asked to call Nick Saban at the 2016 NFL Draft. When an Alabama player was getting picked, Saban told him how the Crimson Tide could develop him the same way.

Nate McBride will enroll at Georgia in June. He’s still got spring track season to go at Vidalia High School. (Jeff Sentell / SEC

“We’re all sitting there watching the draft,” his father Jason McBride said. “I hear Nathan talking to a coach ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘Yes, we’re watching it’ and I know he’s talking to a coach. Little did I know he was talking to the same Nick Saban we just got through seeing on television.”

“He gets off the phone and I ask who is it. He said coach Saban just called. When you think about it, that was pretty cool.”

The Crimson Tide had taken down Clemson for the title a few months earlier. That was on a Monday night. Saban made sure he was in Vidalia to see McBride the ensuing Wednesday morning.

There was a time when Stanford sent two hand-written letters to McBride every week for a stretch. Auburn and Oregon also wanted him. McBride even said Oregon was the school he favored the most when he was a high school freshman. That was his dream back in 2013.

McBride clearly valued the interaction and fellowship with his teammates at Vidalia. (Jeff Sentell /

Georgia got him.

“That really changed for me when coach (Kirby) Smart went to Georgia,” McBride said. “I really liked Coach Smart when he was at Alabama. But I was torn with Georgia. So when coach Smart went over to Georgia that sort of combined it. It seemed like the best fit from then on.”

The home state mattered. So did the fan base.

“I’m a Georgia boy,” McBride said. “My decision really gave me a lot to think about, but it really always came down to where I would be the happiest aside from all of the football.”

The swaying 

Vidalia is a close-knit town that loves football, but All-American linebackers don’t come along every year. They just don’t dig up U.S. Army All-Americans like McBride every season.

He will be remembered as one of the school’s all-time best players. But one of his most memorable moments took place that junior year when he never strapped up his pads.

A photograph of Nate McBride urging his team on while he was injured during his junior season hangs in the field house at Vidalia High School. It is a reflection of what even an injured player can mean to their team on a Friday night. (Jeff Sentell /

There came a time when the Indians were about to take the field but technical difficulties ensued. At least that’s how two or three people remember that night already.

There was no hype song. McBride stepped in and played the part of a motivator. He started rocking and swaying. He fired up his team. A picture of that moment hangs in the fieldhouse at Vidalia.

It is as memorable a moment as any head-snapping tackle he made for Vidalia.

“He’s in the front of all of them,” his father Jason McBride said. “Getting the guys pumped up and keeping them pumped up. He’s just got his jersey on and he’s got our whole team swaying back and forth before they go out.”

That stuff gets lost amid all those 100 and 200-meter times which read like science fiction.

“He’s kind,” Nita McBride said. “He’s sweet. He just seems to have a heart for his team. He loves those guys. He’s humble enough to know those guys will be his friends for the rest of his life.”

Chomskis volunteered his home to help out with McBride’s commitment video. He’s old school. If asked, he probably might’ve wondered why a young man needed to do that in this day and age.

UGA commits Richard LeCounte III (center) and Jake Fromm (right) played key roles in McBride’s commitment video. (Jeff Sentell /

It was the least he could do for a player which set the example McBride did for four years.

“First class all the way,” Chomskis said. “He was going to be a blessing to whoever got him for their program. Won’t matter if he even starts at linebacker for one day. He’ll make that place better because of the kind of guy he is. Kids just get drawn to him. He’s a leader. He’ll get in there and dance with one group and he’ll go sit on a stump and talk country with another group. He’s not a chameleon, but a guy that can embrace and be embraced by the entire group. That more than anything else to me is what Georgia is going to be glad they are getting at linebacker.”



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