The relentless Canadian

According to defensive ends coach Paul Randolph, to be a great defensive lineman requires heart, desire and an all-out effort. <br><br>If that is the standard, Nautyn McKay-Loescher is the prototype.

"I think his temperament and work habits could make him a great defensive lineman," Randolph said. "He only knows one speed, wide-open."

"The Chief" is a lethal 6-4, 248-pound speed rusher with a relatively lean build for a defensive end that belies his power and ferocity. His trademark pass rushing move is the quick spin, as he relies on his athleticism and smarts rather than brawn to evade blocks.

"He's extremely athletic for his size," Randolph said. "The biggest thing about him is his tenacity, it's unreal."

Nautyn McKay-Loescher lines up versus Central Florida.

"He's a very smart football player," defensive tackle coach Buddy Wyatt added. "He's got good hips to get around blockers and does it as well as anyone I've ever seen."

The Toronto, Canada native spent his early years playing football under the three-down Canadian rules, quietly gaining a reputation as the best pass rusher in a country known for its rabid passion for hockey and that other notable ice-bound sport: curling.

"Growing up I wasn't really interested in hockey," McKay-Loescher said. "Hockey players are bigger than I am."

McKay-Loescher was recruited by Alabama and ended up playing thousands of miles away from home in the heart of the South. But the only part of McKay-Loescher that required much adjusting was his stomach. "The biggest culture shock was the food," McKay-Loescher said. "It just was so much more spicy than what I was used to."

After playing in front of relatively sparse crowds in his home country, he was also not prepared for the near-religious zeal of the football following at Alabama. According to McKay-Loescher, high school football doesn't have the same following north of the border as it does in the Deep South.

"It was really a big shock to see that many people in the stadium," McKay-Loescher said of his first game at Bryant-Denny.

According to McKay-Loescher, graduated defensive end Kindal Moorehead was a powerful influence on him in his first year. The elder lineman took the young pass rusher under his wing, helping him learn the tricks of the trade of pass rushing.

McKay-Loescher played sparingly in his freshman campaign without a sack, but emerged in his sophomore year as a crucial part of the defensive line rotation as a situational pass rusher. In his second season, McKay-Loescher had three sacks along with 32 tackles, two of which were for loss.

In last year's A-Day game, he was voted the Dwight Stephenson Most Valuable Lineman after wreaking havoc with two tackles and a sack.

As a junior last season, McKay-Loescher totaled 4.5 sacks despite sharing playing time on a crowded defensive line depth chart. His sack total was good for fourth on the team. He started in seven of the 13 games he played in last season garnering 25 tackles, two for loss.

McKay-Loescher has set some lofty goals for himself in the upcoming season.

According to McKay-Loescher, he intends to double two key stats for a defensive end, sacks and tackles for loss to again give the Tide a pair of nine-plus sack performers on the edge. Last season, Moorehead got nine sacks with Antwan Odom leading the team with 10, both from the end position.

Alabama is counting on McKay-Loescher to anchor one side of its defensive line.

"I think he's very capable of doubling his sack and his tackle for loss total," Randolph said. "It would make it very hard to cheat and put two guys on Antwan because Nautyn would hurt you on the other side."

McKay-Loescher has modeled his game on one of the NFL's finest speed rushers, Simeon Rice of the Tampa Buccaneers, known for his boundless energy and relentless pursuit. "He just doesn't care," McKay-Loescher said. "He's so fearless and relentless."

In his four years at the Capstone, McKay-Loescher has been through three coaching staffs and gone from a young man thousands of miles away from home to a respected veteran looked up to by his teammates on the defensive line. "I just want to become leader and lead by example," McKay-Loescher said.

During the just completed spring training, both Odom and McKay-Loescher missed extensive practice time, Odom with a concussion and McKay-Loescher fighting off a nasty case of the flu that then turned into mononucleosis.

Their absence showed head coach Mike Price how important they are to the Tide defense. "It's really hurt us not having those two guys," Price said. "Their coming back will really help us."

NOTE: Due to his bout with mononucleosis, McKay-Loescher was forced to withdraw from school prior to the end of spring semester. He plans on reentering The University for the interim summer term. He will petition the NCAA for a hardship waiver from the normal degree-progress rules, based on illness. Nothing is certain until the committee rules on the appeal, but the Tide academic staff believes McKay-Loescher should receive the waiver and be eligible for the 2003 season.

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