NT Hilcz plays the game “kind of pissed off”

Defensive linemen are a special breed. The ones who play, and excel at the interior positions are that much more unique. Coaches seek a certain size for the position, but also the players capacity for the relentless combat that comes with trench warfare. Although size and power are an asset for nose tackles and defensive tackles, the only necessity the position requires is the athletes ability to plug run lanes and harass quarterbacks in passing situations.

Being situated in the middle of any defence assures contact on every play. Often, DTs and NTs feel like a fire hydrant at a dog park.

To succeed physically on the interior line one must be able to take, and give their share of abuse. Some can do this habitually, while others need to flip an emotional switch to allow the sort of physicality the position demands.

Moncton Purple Knight, Nathan Hilcz, depends on this ‘switch’ to help him transition into a rhino of a Nose Tackle.

“You have to go into every play being kind of pissed off. At the snap all I’m thinking is make contact, be aggressive and drive my guy back,” he explained. “Once I’m off the field, or not doing football I’m just myself, but when I’m on the line or the field I’m in football mode; I can’t be distracted.”

Hilcz started playing in the ninth grade when a teacher suggested he try out for the team. Hilcz went out for the team and spent his rookie season practising with the Offensive Line, but as he recalls was, “hooked”. He saw limited game action, which was fine with the young athlete who realized he had much to improve upon before earning his coaches trust to take on more game reps.

In his grade ten season, the 6-foot-0, 260-pound bruiser was moved to D-line, where he saw more game time, but hadn’t proven himself yet to be a starter. Hilcz was fine with this and took the time to improve and focus on what he needed to do to start.

By grade 11, Hilcz had become more comfortable with his role and began practising and playing at a higher level. After the fourth game of the season, he began starting on a team that doesn’t guarantee starting positions for anyone.

“Our motto is ‘best player plays’, if you put in your full potential, you’ll get to play. If you slack off and don’t care – what’s the point? It felt great starting.”

Aside from taking solid reps at practice and playing at a higher level, Hilcz spent his off season, preparing to get better by lifting with team mates at the schools Purple Steel Program. The three day a week Olympic lifting regimen wasn’t new to him, as he started training his rookie season.

Initially, Hilcz noticed his participation curbed a low back injury, but by becoming a serious lifter has taken steps toward injury prevention.

“I lift three times a week, year round. A big thing is injury prevention, but you get stronger too. When I’m there I put my full effort in, and try and show the coaches I want to play and want to the best, and to reach full potential,” he stated.

In his independent pursuit of this, Hilcz is focusing on improving every aspect of his game, but is specifically focused on  footwork, and improving his preferred technique – the bull rush.

Combined with his off-season lifting and film study, Hilcz is taking critical game reps with team New Brunswick’s U18 squad.

For some players, the standard for potential may end here, but for Hilcz this also includes emerging as a leader among his team.

“I’m going to be more of a role model fo rthe younger guys, show them how to do things, and hopefully try to make them want to reach their potential,” he said.

The one game he is most looking forward to playing is against the reigning champion Tantramar Titans, and specifically seeing how he does against Titan guard, Ryan Cadman.

“Caddy’s a big guy it will be fun going against him, Tantramar boys are hard hitters,” he mentioned.

Hilcz has no concrete plans after his grade 12 year. He is considering taking a year off prior joining the Canadian Forces, but is also curious about attending a college program to become a heavy equipment operator.

With these loose plans comes no definitive plans for playing more football. Should he find a college program with an AFL team he would try out, and he has also gauged his potential to play with the Moncton Mustangs, a men’s league that plays other Maritimer’s not quite ready to give up their gridiron dreams.

Despite where he winds up post secondary, Hilcz will carry with him the lessons his time as a Purple Knight have taught, as well as the character development that came with it.

“Being a Purple Knight is something you have to be committed too, if not committed there’s no real point to it. I’m going to try my absolute hardest, I’m going to go beyond my limits, if I’m tired I’ll go beyond being tired….Being on the team is being one united family with no individuals.”

 

Nathan Hilcz (62)
Nose Tackle
6’0, 260lbs

Teams: Moncton High Purple Knights
Commitment: none
Official Visits: none
Considerations: Open
Class: 2018

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