Walhalla’s Nations talks East Carolina pledge
By Alex Maminakis
WALHALLA — It didn’t take long for Patrick Nations to realize East Carolina was the school for him.
Two months after receiving a scholarship offer to play football for the Pirates, Nations was on campus in Greenville, N.C., on Tuesday to visit the school. As a highly rated place-kicker, Nations had drawn interest from a number of high-profile programs during his recruiting process, but the Walhalla standout saw all he needed to on Tuesday to make his final decision.
He announced his commitment to East Carolina before noon on Tuesday on Twitter, along with a photo of himself and Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery.
“At the end, it really came down between East Carolina and South Carolina, but East Carolina really won it over when I went and visited this past Tuesday,” Nations said this week. “Just the coaching staff and how much they made me feel wanted, and the campus and everything there — I love the town and everything about it.”
Nothing is official until Nations signs his letter of intent — which he plans to do in December and enroll early at East Carolina in January — but he said his mind is made up.
“I’m not going anywhere else,” he said.
Nations had drawn interest from South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Illinois and North Greenville, among others, but he’s more than happy with his decision to play for the Pirates.
Nations has been a standout kicker for the Razorbacks since he started playing, often booming kickoffs deep into the end zone, and he first started kicking in middle school. As a lifelong soccer player, the transition made sense in football.
“I kicked in middle school in seventh grade, but I didn’t take kicking seriously until about 10th grade when I got my kicking coach, Kenny Gordon, and I’ve been working with him since then.” Nations said. “But up until that point, it was pretty much just going back and kicking the ball as hard as I could.”
Receiving a college kicking scholarship is very competitive, and spots fill up quickly at major programs, but Nations has put in the work for a number of years to earn the offers and attention he got as a recruit and now the opportunity to play college football for the Pirates.
“Patrick’s a super kid — you won’t find a better kid than him,” Walhalla coach Padgett Johnson said. “He practices hard, he works hard and he earned everything he’s got. We’re super proud of that.
“Kicking is probably the toughest scholarship to get, because you only take one every three or four years, and you can see those slots being filled or were filled at various schools. He was a different kid when he came back (from his visit) Wednesday. You could tell it was like the weight of the world had been taken off of his shoulders.”
As a junior last season, Nations converted 36 of 38 extra-point attempts for the Razorbacks and made eight of his 13 field-goal attempts, with a long of 44 yards. But that was far from the totality of his contributions on the field.
Nations was voted a Western 3A all-region player at four different positions last season — place-kicker, punter, wide receiver and defensive back. He hardly comes off the field, and he’ll contribute at those positions again this season, but kicking remains his strength, and it’s what earned him his offer from East Carolina.
“It means everything, honestly. It’s a great opportunity, and not many people get it, so I’m very honored to get it,” Nations said about the chance to play college football.
“I’ve definitely worked hard at it, just putting in extra time instead of going and hanging out with friends — just running, going in the weight room, watching some extra film and stuff like that. It definitely takes a lot to do it. It’s a sacrifice, but it pays off.”
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