By Joe Davidson
It isn't just the body and ability and work ethic drive that wows people about Nate Iese.
He's about as polite a young man as you will see, so long as you are not lining up across him in the trenches, and he takes his academic load as seriously as he does his pursuit of the ball or a ball carrier. Iese once sheepishly asked his Sheldon High School football coach Josh Crabtree if he could take a practice session off to work with homeless people through his church, to which Crabtree said he'd thump him if he didn't go.
Iese this past fall quickly emerged as a national recruit, fast and ferocious as a rush end at 6-foot-5 and 250 pound and equally as difficult a handle as a tight end. He has receiver speed with soft hands and was a sight to behold at his size racing down field. In a scrimmage before the regular season, Iese took a quarterback snap and rumbled down field, racing past some defenders and over others.
In short: a complete player.
When Jim Mora, fresh on the UCLA job, saw Iese run the floor in a basketball practice, gliding up and down with biceps to die for, the new coach muttered on the spot that he had to have him.
Now he's got him.
Iese on Thursday night gave a verbal commitment to play for UCLA. He has been enamored - and mutual - with the Bruins for months. He took a recent recruiting trip to the campus in Los Angeles, saw the Rose Bowl, soaked up the academic appeal and continued his good rapport with assistant coach Angus McClure, the former Sacramento State standout lineman and assistant coach.
"I'm really excited," Iese said. "I'm glad I was able to make this decision. They've been recruiting me since the beginning. I really like Coach Angus. He's very good at what he does. You can tell some coaches come and recruit and treat it as a job. Angus takes pride in what he does with recruiting and that really impacted me. He really stood out."
Iese chuckled in admitting he wasn't sure if that was Coach Mora at that recent basketball practice. He knew he was someone important, but was trying to concentrate on drills, too, and cracked that it's a good thing he didn't run into a wall or fall down.
Iese said he was so impressed with UCLA that he felt it the right thing to do in canceling a home visit with Cal on Thursday night and a weekend recruiting trip. UCLA, he said, is home now. Iese also had offers from Nebraska, Cal, Washington (from Tosh Lupoi on Wednesday night), Nevada and others.
Iese said he is willing to play either tight end or defensive end, and ideally, perhaps play both.
Iese also credited Crabtree and his Linemen Win Games coordinator Jon Osterhout, a good friend of McClure from their Sac State days. Osterhout has helped groom scores of linemen through his program that specializes in technique, conditioning and the thinking aspect of the game (for more information: linemenwingames.com).
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Editor's note: This story's headline has been corrected.
Bee photo by Randy Pench