SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The scene after Isaac Nauta committed to UGA on Sunday was very old school. He smiled for a steady stream of pictures. He signed autographs on footballs, hats, backpack, shirts and everything in between. A young fan asked him for his shoes.
Nauta — the nation’s No. 1 ranked tight end — gave them up. Another young fan had an interesting souvenir request: He asked Nauta for the backplate from his shoulder pads.
“Can I have it?” the kid said.
The second 5-star prospect of what will turn out to be a very eyebrow-raising Class of 2016 signing class at UGA laughed.
“Sure if you can get it off,” he said.
Another fan — this one a parent of one of those autograph seekers — shouted “Go Dawgs” and Nauta responded in kind.
“Guess I can say that out loud in public now,” Nauta said to cap a day that all seemed perfectly planned for such an old school player.
The 6-foot-4 standout from Dacula, Ga., combines skill and tenacity and the athleticism at 244 pounds to shake off elite defensive backs in coverage. He played his first three seasons of high school football for state power Buford but transferred to national powerhouse IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year.
The time he spent this year at that boarding school played the biggest role in him coming home to Georgia.
“Going to IMG and being away from home really made me realize how important it is to be home, and to have my family at games and stuff,” Nauta said. “I also wanted to play in the SEC. So I’m close to home and playing in the SEC and Georgia has got some good change in there. It just seemed perfect for me.”
That’s the same storyline that applies to new head coach Kirby Smart. Nauta said that Smart knew he was on the way.
“They were ecstatic,” Nauta said. “Kirby said he wants to blow the doors off the thing and he said my only problem might be getting the ball too much.”
Nauta will fly home to Georgia on Sunday, pack up his bags and move to Athens. When he moves in, he’ll pair up with fellow 5-star Jacob Eason and another early enrollee in 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Ben Cleveland. They will room with UGA freshman Mirko Jurkovic.
That apartment will surely make an impact on Kirby Smart’s first three-to-four years in Athens.
His first day of classes will be on Monday. Nauta has broad shoulders but felt like a large weight was removed from them on Saturday. He said he felt like he weighed about 180 pounds afterward.
“I can definitely start recruiting some guys now,” Nauta said. “I know there are some guys coming in officials soon and I will be enrolled. I am going to see some guys and try to recruit them but overall I am just excited and ready to get there.”
Nauta said Michigan finished second behind UGA.
“Really what it all came down to is I just wanted to be close to home,” Nauta said.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.