LOVELAND – The University of Findlay Oilers may have struck black (and orange) gold with their signing of Loveland High School running back Nate Slagel recently.
While bigger schools may have had reservations about recruiting someone who has injured both knees, Findlay will be getting an athlete who has consistently exercised extreme mental toughness. The past two football seasons for Slagel ended with anterior cruciate ligament tears.
Less than seven months after his senior football campaign ended Sept. 18 against Glen Este, Slagel has returned to represent Loveland in spring track. At a solid 215 pounds, he could be the most intimidating sprinter in the city.
“The wheels are feeling good,” Slagel said. “They feel really better than ever. I’m starting to get back into racing shape like I was sophomore year. I’m starting to feel just as good.”
In 2013, Slagel was second in the Eastern Cincinnati Conference in the 100 meters at 10.9 and tops in the long jump at 22’ 1.75”. He also anchored Loveland’s 4×100 relay.
The previous fall, Slagel started on Loveland’s defensive line and had four quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. When Fred Cranford took over as football coach over the summer of 2013, the powerful speedster was switched to running back.
As previously documented, the junior ran for 1,340 yards, 18 touchdowns and went more than 200 yards three times. Then, in the middle of his eighth game came the first knee injury.
Despite his absence, the Tigers won a Division II championship. Recognizing his amazing numbers in just 7.5 games, Slagel was named ECC and Division II State Offensive Player of the Year.
As he rehabbed the first time, he skipped the 2014 track season. Last fall, he returned to the Tiger football backfield and racked up 331 yards in 3.5 games. In game four against Glen Este, he had tallied 71 yards and scored twice.
However, there was a familiar twinge on his second touchdown and No. 47 came out of the game. By halftime, he was on crutches on the sideline eating a slice of pizza. Same injury, different knee.
He was seen in the weight room the next day.
Though he could be mistaken for someone looking for the shot put pit, the Loveland senior is back in the blocks in the 100, defying the odds again.
“It’s not like an impossible thing to overcome,” Slagel said. “It’s actually helped me respect every second I have competing.”
As a precaution, he is bypassing the long jump this spring. In the 100, has run 11.14 thus far, good enough for third in the ECC.
Fitting as the son of a Marine, Slagel has cleared all hurdles, obstacles and challenges thrown his way. At one time, his list of suitors included Ohio State, Illinois, Nebraska, Miami University and Indiana.
Minus the injuries, Nate Slagel might have been playing on TV in Division I.
“There was a possibility at some point,” Slagel said. “I’m not really looking back on it. There’s no reason to. I just want to do the best I can at Findlay.”
He’s been told he’ll be in the running back rotation for the Oilers. In the meantime, his next track rotation will be at the ECC Championships at Anderson May 13-15.