<
>

Learning more about ... Nate Solder

In the first of a series on Patriots 2011 draft choices, ESPNBoston.com speaks with former Colorado offensive line coach Denver Johnson about New England first-round pick Nate Solder:

What was the most common question you heard from NFL coaches and scouts on Nate?: "It was kind of funny because everybody was trying to find salt with him, almost like 'this is too good to be true.' Nate is just a very humble, unassuming person. He is very generous with his time. He isn't the guy who is going to show up with a gun in his bag and be on the police blotter. So everyone was trying to dig up dirt because no one could find anything. I think they sensed we might be hiding something about him, but we weren't. He's the real deal, everything you'd want a kid to be. He's the kind of guy you hope your daughter brings home to meet you one day. He's as good as gold and a tremendously blessed athlete on top of it."

How would you characterize Nate as a football player?: "I could go several different ways with that. Probably the most accurate thing to talk about is how he still has it all in front of him. Nate came out of a school in the mountains of Western Colorado, and arrived at Colorado as a tight end. He was converted to offensive tackle and I coached him the last two years. In the last half of this past season, he just really started to become an offensive lineman. I think the guy has such tremendous upside. He's injury-free, with no major surgeries, so he's pristine in that way. He's immensely talented, with tremendous God-given ability, highly intelligent with a great work ethic. In my opinion, he's just scratched the surface in what he can be. I think the people of Boston and New England fans everywhere would be really excited about what they have in Nate."

How would you describe what makes Nate unique as a player?: "Other than the obvious, his tremendous physical assets -- he's long at 6-foot-8 -- the term I use is 'sudden.' He has so much suddenness to him. He can come out of his stance, get that first step on the ground, and snap up in pass protection. All of these things have a little development in front of him, but you can't teach that suddenness. He's kind of a quiet, unassuming guy. He's not one that is going to head-butt the Coke machine in the locker room. But he's highly competitive and he is a sponge, someone who wants to be a good football player. I believe he will be."

Is there a game that stands out from Nate's career at Colorado?: "He was so consistent for me, so I'm not sure any one stands out more than any other. He lined up against Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, those type of teams, and was amazingly consistent for us. He was a great player on a struggling team. We didn't have great seasons at Colorado, but it wasn't his fault. He held up his end of the deal."

Is there a player from the NFL that might be a good comparison?: “I was shocked at Colorado when he was moved to the offensive line. I thought he was someone who could have played defensive line, and been an all-Big 12 defensive end. I was thinking along the lines of Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones from the old Dallas Cowboys days. But we had a tremendous need on the offensive line and I was delighted to get him."

How does Nate's height create a challenge for him against some smaller edge rushers?: "The thing that Nate can do, as opposed to a lot of other guys his height, is bend. He has tremendous ankle, knee and hip flexibility. He can lower his body without bending at the waist. Sometimes smaller guys can be problematic, and that's something any lineman can learn to better deal with, but coaches will work on that aspect of it. He has the inherent ability to bend and move his feet."

What was your experience with Nate's family?: "Mom and Dad are just great people. Nate is kind of an All-American kid and it's an All-American family. His dad hunts elk in the mountains and they run a bed and breakfast in the mountains. They are salt of the earth people. Good folks."