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CU linebacker Nate Landman prepares to open eyes at NFL combine

'I want to prove to people I am more athletic than they think I am'
Nate Landman sitting.JPG
Posted at 1:25 PM, Feb 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-16 17:58:47-05

ENGLEWOOD — It is a warm February afternoon in Colorado, about a John Elway spiral from the Broncos training complex.

Tucked away in a business district and next to a volleyball center sits Landow Performance where 30 football prospects are training to become pros. One of the most prominent is impossible to miss — former CU star Nate Landman. He is a chiseled 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, a blend of patience and purpose as he navigates the "longest job interview" of his life.

Landman finds himself in the window from the end of his college career until he heads to the NFL combine on March 2. Landman proved volcanic at CU, producing a glossy resume that included three 100 tackle seasons and a battery of honors, including all-conference four times.

Full interview: CU linebacker Nate Landman prepares to open eyes at NFL combine

With music thumping and weights clanking behind him, Landman talked with confidence about his upcoming audition in Indianapolis as he currently projects as a fourth-to-sixth round draft choice.

"I was able to put a lot of great film out there for a lot of years. Now, I want to prove people I am more athletic than they think I am," Landman said. "I am excited to shock a little bit of people and not only exceed their expectations but mine as well."

Landman served as a leader at CU, not only in production, but emotion. He served as a heartbeat, with coach Karl Dorrell saying prior to last season, "He's a catalyst. He's a guy that leads by not only what he says but also what he does. You wish you had 120 Nate Landmans on your team with that mentality."

For Landman, his path become interrupted. He was supposed to go through this experience a year ago. However, in CU's season finale against Utah in 2020 he ruptured his Achilles. The timing was awful, but it only hardened Landman's resolve.

"Once the injury happened I had to put my head down and focus on my career and what my future looked like," Landman said. "Luckily I had COVID year (of eligibility). I focused on returning to the player I was before the injury, if not even better. I think the people in my corner got me back to even better."

Landman, limited to seven games last season because of a shoulder injury, demonstrated those skills at the recent Shrine Bowl for draft hopefuls. He showed good instincts, awareness and the football acumen to call out plays and position teammates. He is a landshark on run plays, devouring ball carriers. This skill can help him at the next level where tackling has become a lost art.

He embraces the physical nature of the sport.

"The game brings it out of me. I feel at home when I am playing. I am super comfortable because I have played it so much, a lot of things feel like second nature," said Landman, who is tied for fifth all-time at CU with 409 tackles. "My true competitive self comes out."

Football was not the obvious path for Landman. He was born in Zimbabwe in southern Africa. His father Shaun played rugby for the University of Cape Town and represented his country in international competitions. However, when the family moved to the states when Landman was 4, the son soon gravitated in a different direction.

"I started playing football when I was 7. I figured out I was aggressive and liked tackling. I am the youngest of two brothers (behind Brendan, a college football player) and I had to keep up. With my dad playing rugby, I learned stuff from him and he has made me take that next step as a football player," Landman said. "I love the life lessons that football has taught me growing up, the friendships I have made. There’s other contact sports, but not like football. I am just a contact guy. I love being a linebacker. It’s the sport I was bred to play."

Landman first took to linebacker when watching Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. As he advanced in his playing career, Landman studied Luke Kuechly, modeling his preparation after the Carolina Panthers star. Now, he prepares to take that next step into the professional ranks. Landman feels ready. He is training six days a week, diligently following a balanced meal plan, using the recovery center and getting plenty of sleep.

There are no "wasted days" when it comes to the combine, a taxing assessment of talent, personality and knowledge.

"You have to be confident in your ability and training and have your body fall back on that. You do so many things on repeat so when go to combine it’s second nature so it allows your body to stay loose. You are prepared to compete like a game," Landman said. "There’s definitely that nervous excited energy that flows though. I am used to playing in front of thousands of people so I don’t think it will be much of a problem."

What becomes obvious talking to Landman is how much he wants this. Some pursue professional sports as accidental tourists, excelling at something that is not their passion. That is not the case with Landman.

"The NFL has been a dream of mine. You hear about the statistics, how it’s so not in your favor. To be in this position, I am super blessed. The Lord gifted me with so many things. I do believe I belong in the league. It’s the dream. I want to do it for me, my family, my family in the future, just so many reasons. It’s the end goal. I have been working for that since I was 7 years old," Landman said.

"Football is great. It’s the best sport. It’s kind of the only sport where train all year for only 12 opportunities. The reward is definitely worth all the work. If you don’t love the game it won’t love you back."