By Gabriel Stovall
STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Before Nash Boatwright signed his letter of intent to play football at West Georgia last Wednesday during National Signing Day, the highlight of his high school football career came during a particular moment on the field.
It was toward the beginning of Community Christian’s Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association state championship season, in a game that, as far as Boatwright is concerned, was the perfect microcosmic definition of his mentality as an offensive linemen.
“It was early in the season, and we were running a play where the left guard and left tackle had to pull, and I absolutely destroyed the kid who was trying to make the tackle,” Boatwright said.
But he wasn’t speaking arrogantly. The play actually was the biggest piece of confirmation that this football thing had graduated from hobby to college ticket — and maybe more.
“I think that was the play that made me think, ‘Yeah, I could really do this,’” he said.
At that time, Boatwright had received offers and interest from schools such as Stetson, Valparaiso and Shorter. Then he played in the GICAA all-star football game back in December. Boatwright’s team stormed back from a 24 point deficit in the fourth quarter. Three of those touchdowns came off a quarterback counter play where Boatright was lead blocking.
More confirmation — and not bad for a 6-foot-4, 295 pound offensive linemen that left a large high school in the Chicago suburbs to come to a small private school that plays in a league where some question the competitive heft when compared to what GHSA schools face.
Before landing in Stockbridge, Boatwright played for Huntley High in Huntley, IL — a solid program which, according to MaxPreps, finished as the 15th ranked football team in the state of Illinois in 2016. Boat right said his parents moved this way, partly because of a job transfer, and also because they wanted to see Boatwright get a quality education in a smaller, private school setting.
The differences between Huntley and Community Christian were stark, indeed.
“You’re going from a 130-man squad at Huntley down to a 40-man squad here at Community,” he said.
And typically this is where the conversation turns to the perceived disadvantages of playing at smaller schools against what is assumed to be lesser competition. Many would consider the move Boatwright made as a voluntary demotion as far as his football future goes. But from the beginning, Boatwright didn’t buy into that rhetoric.
“A smaller environment actually helped me get better,” he said. “The coaches here, you really got to know them because you have them as teachers as well. They’re in the classroom helping you out, and not just on the football field. If they see you’re not feeling too good, they ask what’s going on. They take that extra time in practice to make sure you’re getting things and feeling better about yourself.”
So it was no surprise that Boatwright signed to a school in West Georgia that gave him the close-knit vibe that he learned to love at Community Christian.
“I chose West Georgia because it’s a family,” he said. “All the coaches made me feel like a part of the brotherhood. Not only that, but with me being an offensive lineman, I wanted to be wit the best, and West Georgia is where elite offensive linemen are.”
He credits the offense Community Christian ran as the reason why he was able to display the kind of potential that would prompt the Carrollton school to come calling. Boatwright called Community Christian’s offense a dream come true for an offensive linemen.
“It was a really punch-you-in-the-mouth kind of offense when it came to running,” he said. “I love run blocking, and being here, it really brought out my potential. College coaches love to see the explosion you have coming off the ball. I was able to get that in my film because of the kind of offense we ran.”
Boatwright was one of a handful of Community Christian players who signed fairly substantial scholarship offers, including Marcell Gleaton who committed to Navy and Ashton Hughes who signed to Reinhardt.
Such athletes are more proof for Community Christian football coach Adam Collins that his school can offer the same things larger schools can give.
“I think that Nash and others are signs that we’re watching the gap between the GICAA, GISA and GHSA starting to close,” Collins said. “Kids are realizing that you don’t have to play at a Stockbridge or an ELCA or other larger schools in order to get noticed. It doesn’t matter where you play. If you’re a good player, they can find you.”
To that end, Collins says West Georgia will be getting a good offensive lineman with great upside.
“He’s got a good football IQ,” Collins. “He’s grown up a quite bit since he’s been here. He’s become a much more versatile lineman. We took him from a system where his job was, in my opinion, rather simple, and taught him more complex things. His ability has really taken off. I think he’s starting to see what he’s capable of.”
It’s Boatwright’s realization that gave signing day even more meaning.
“Signing day was better than I expected it to be,” he said. “It was the exclamation point on my high school football career. It’s the best feeling to know you can relax knowing you’re going to play football at the college level with the big dogs. I’m very proud to be a Wolf.”