When Isaac Nauta left Buford (Ga.) for Florida, his father was getting a new job and he planned to transfer to Bradenton (Fla) IMG Academy to play for former Florida State and NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.
The four-star tight end enrolled at IMG Academy for the spring semester last year, but Weinke soon departed for a job as the St. Louis Rams quarterbacks coach. IMG’s new head coach, Kevin Wright, chose to move the offense from a more traditional pro-style to a spread, which bothered Nauta and his father to begin with.
But those fears were calmed and Nauta has gone on to boost his stock with a dominant summer, being one of the most consistent and top players during The Opening Finals in Beaverton, Ore. He said succeeding against the high-level competition The Opening provides built his confidence and has made him work even harder since.
“Really for me, I’ve just been working on blocking, route running and just trying to improve myself in every single way.”
Nauta has taken aspects from both offensive systems at IMG Academy plus what he learned over the summer to propel himself forward to become the nation's top ranked tight end and No. 26 in the Scout 300.
“You know it’s been pretty good,” Nauta said of his time at IMG Academy. “I’ve been able to improve myself as a player in a bunch of different ways. I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and all kinds of different things and working out. It’s been good in even more than being a football player.”
Week in and week out Nauta and his IMG teammates — many of which are also big-time Division I recruits — have gone up against some of the top competition in the country, playing a schedule that features games against teams from five states.
“I love our schedule and the toughness of it. I guess that’s kind of preparing me better for college. It’s a good opponent every week and you learn how to fight through adversity and keep playing and that’s the way college football is.”
But it’s not just traveling to Texas or New Jersey and the rest of the team’s slate of games that is preparing Nauta for life in college. It’s also the daily schedule at IMG.
“IMG is completely structured around being a college prep atmosphere. They try to pretty much set everything up as if you are in a college. It’s all preparing us for college.”
Because of the travel, the days of the games are even structured like college as three of the Ascenders’ first four games have been on Saturdays. Nauta said that’s part of the reason he hasn’t been able to watch much college football this season, including checking out the USC Trojans — a school that is currently slated to get one of the former Florida State commit’s five official visits.
Nauta has been in consistent contact with the USC coaching staff. He said he communicates with tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo “on Twitter a lot.”
“They want me really bad. They say I’m a guy that can come in early and play, assuming that I work hard and I understand plays and what not,” Nauta said. “They really want to have a guy that can make plays in the passing game and run block too. There’s a bunch of opportunities to make plays and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Other than the trip to Oregon for The Opening, Nauta hasn’t been out the the West Coast often. That’s why on his official visit to USC, which he said will be for the Arizona game on Nov. 7, he is trying to see if he is a good fit, not only with the football team, but with the community and culture of Los Angeles.
“That’s really going to be one of the big things is to see if I can see myself out there. Obviously being away from family out there, I kind of just want to see what they’re about and what it’s like on a day-to-day basis there.”