A.J. Natter took a simple, reasonable approach toward his recruiting process.
Natter decided that if he was going to commit to a school early, he was going to keep that commitment.
No time to be wishy-washy. That wouldn't be fair.
“I wasn’t going to start looking at other places or whatnot,” Natter said. “It was the kind of the moral value I had set in my mind, that if I were to commit somewhere, I think it should’ve been a solid commitment. I shouldn’t have second thoughts about it.”
So if you haven’t heard much about Natter since April, when he committed to Nebraska, that’s probably why.
Natter, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end from Milton, Wis., stayed true to his word, taking no visits despite receiving offers from Iowa, Michigan State, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue.
In fact, Natter was so decisive, he told Nebraska coaches to not worry about him, that they should focus their recruiting efforts elsewhere, rather than wasting their time trying to keep Natter aboard.
He wasn’t going anywhere.
And on Wednesday, when Natter signed his letter of intent with Nebraska, defensive coordinator John Papuchis, able to speak publicly about the 2013 class for the first time, expressed his appreciation for Natter’s attitude.
“One of the great things about A.J. is he’s really unselfish,” Papuchis said. “He told us once the contact period started early in December, he said, ‘You know what, guys? I know you’ve got kids you’re recruiting all over the country. Don’t worry about me. If you can’t come see me in a week, that’s fine, I’m OK with that.’
“That kind of unselfishness isn’t seen that often in recruiting. It was obviously helpful, too, because getting out to Wisconsin isn’t the easiest flight to catch. There was a week or two where we didn’t get to see him and we dedicated our time elsewhere, knowing he was OK with that.”
Said Natter: “I was so set on my commitment, and I was so excited to be a Husker, that I thought it would’ve made more sense for them to keep recruiting other kids.”
Natter is Nebraska’s first signee from the state of Wisconsin since 1997. He was a three-year standout on the defensive line for Jeff Bachinski at Milton High School. As a senior, Natter had 43 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks, while also recovering two fumbles in eight games.
“One of the things I like about him from a physical standpoint is his speed and athleticism,” Papuchis said. “I think he’s a tremendous athlete. He runs well, he’s powerful. But the thing you like the most after getting to know him is some of his intangibles. The fact that he’s a leader, the fact he’s a good teammate, that he’s a man of his word.”
Natter paid attention when Nebraska coaches told him to come to Lincoln prepared, with an opportunity to play immediately.
In preparation for track season, Natter has been working out with Brad Kligora, a local football strength and conditioning coach, and said he’s increased his bench by more than 100 pounds, to 390, since the end of the football season.
“It’s about lifting weight and no rest. It’d kind of an endurance thing,” Natter said. “I’ve improved so much this offseason. I’m in the best shape of my life right now.”
Natter throws the discus — he placed third in the event at state last year — and runs the 100-meter dash and is on the 400-meter relay team, which also qualified for state last year.
Natter said he’s preparing himself physically and mentally, knowing that if he doesn’t get immediate playing time, he’ll need to contribute on the practice squad to help the team improve.
“You want to win games,” Natter said. “It’s not about yourself anymore. It’s not about your stars, it’s not about your rating. It’s about your team’s record.”