North Putnam's inside linebacker Nate Bryan was recently named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association's Top 50 team. Bryan was also named the Banner Graphic Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row and quickly gave credit to those around him on the Cougar squad.
"I'm just thankful for all the gifts God has given me to be able to achieve thankful and thankful for the teammates and coaches that helped me get there," Bryan said.
Among those around him that had an impact on his player career is North Putnam defensive coordinator Dan Fouts.
"I feel like I have the best coaching staff," Bryan said. "Coach (Dan) Fouts does a great job and without him I could never have achieved anything that I have in high school.
"He puts in so much work. The scouting report, he can look at me and be like 'Nate, look for this.' He does his homework and he knows what's coming. He's obviously a seasoned veteran by now, so he's just great from the standpoint of getting us prepared for Friday night and we go into every game expecting to win. He's always got our defense ready to go," he added.
As one of the leaders of the North Putnam squad, Bryan talked about his views on how to lead a team and how different players get it done.
"As a linebacker, you watch Ray Lewis and Dick Butkus back in the '60s and the linebacker is that vocal leader," Bryan said. "Ray Lewis is up jumping around and getting his team fired up, so from that standpoint I just take that leadership role on.
"I believe that God has blessed me with leadership abilities. I don't think you can make a leader, you're sort of born with that and I think I was blessed with that," he said.
Bryan also talked about his faith and the impact it's had on him. He led the Cougars in prayer before and after games as well.
"To be honest, that's huge for me," he said. "Obviously, God is very important to my life. I idolize Tim Tebow for that; he always thanks God for this and that. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13 'I can do anything through him who gives me strength,' so I think that's huge that we have a team that really takes pride in that and really knows that we aren't out there doing it all on our own -- God is helping us.
"That's huge just being able to lead in prayer -- God is on our side, that's how we always feel," he added.
Sometimes a player's number comes down to the luck of the draw, but Bryan's No. 51 is a little more special. Bryan explained how his uncle Troy began the tradition in honor of Dick Butkus and it's been a family affair ever since. The number has been wore by his uncles, his cousin, his father, Tony, and it's not done yet.
"I'm sure my little brother Grant will be wearing it next year as well," Bryan said.
Asked what advice he'd like to give to young players early in their careers, Bryan said having a tough mental game and to stay the course is important.
"I would tell them to always work hard and never, ever get discouraged whether as far as position or whatever," Bryan said. "I know I got pretty discouraged my sophomore year. I actually started at defensive tackle for the first two games and I wanted to be at linebacker. I played defensive tackle for a few games and then coach made a switch and I moved to middle linebacker and I've been there ever since.
"Just persevere," he continued. "Always stay positive, that's a big thing. Everything is mental for me. What I tell all our underclassmen is everything is in your head. If you know you're going to beat the guy across from you before the play, you're going to beat him."