Bowling Green's Nate Locke gives fans high fives before Saturday's game against South Dakota. BLADE/KURT STEISS
EVANSTON, Ill. — When Mike Jinks was asked about Nate Locke — the person, not the football player — the face of the Bowling Green State University football coach lit up.
“I’ve got two [sons], and I’d be overwhelmed if they came out to be close to the man he is,” Jinks said of Locke. “He’s a tremendous leader, and that has nothing to do with what he does on the football field.”
Locke, who started at linebacker for the Falcons in their game Saturday at Northwestern, is a two-time Mid-American Conference distinguished scholar-athlete and also has earned back-to-back academic All-MAC honors.
He also is BG’s nominee for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works team, an award given to college football players who are involved in off-field activities that benefit their schools and the surrounding community.
The Falcons’ game against the Wildcats was not completed at press time.
During his time as BGSU, Locke has served as president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has been an FCA camp huddle leader. Locke also works with Feed My Starving Children and Rally Cap Sports, and has taken part in mission trips to Guatemala and Beach Reach Mission Trips in Florida, and inner-city Toledo.
“To see the look on people’s faces after serving them, it’s priceless,” Locke said.
A Massillon Jackson High School graduate who is the son of Paul and Laura Locke, Nate Locke said he never gave a second thought to getting involved once he enrolled at Bowling Green.
“It originates from the way I was raised,” he said. “From an early age, my parents instilled in me the idea of empathy, and the idea of being a well-rounded individual. …
“As I came to college, I got more in touch with my spiritual side. This led me to believe that my only purpose on the earth is to serve and love people, and that drives me to more volunteer opportunities.”
While Locke’s work obviously benefits others, the redshirt senior said he draws benefits as well.
“It brings me a lot of personal joy, honestly, to go out and serve other people,” he said. “It brings me a sense of satisfaction, joy and fulfillment that I don’t get anywhere else.
“Also seeing the effect I can have on the lives of other people can be fulfilling.”
Locke also has played an integral role in the Falcons defense this season. He posted a team-high 14 tackles in the season-opener at Michigan State, then added nine more against South Dakota to lead BG with 23 stops.
When Jinks was asked about Locke’s on-field importance into to the Falcons, he said, “I can’t put it into words. With some of the losses we’ve had, what he has done to keep a young and inexperienced linebacker corps together has been unbelievable.”
Despite his football and community service responsibilities, Locke currently has a 4.0 grade-point average, majoring in biology and psychology. So how does the senior find time in a busy schedule for football, school work, and community service?
Locke paused, then smiled. “I don’t know,” he said.
“Som times that has shot me in the foot, because I’ve said yes to way too many things at the same time — and I’ve been completely overwhelmed,” he admitted. “But looking back, I’ve enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“If you make time for the right things, I’ve learned that you find enough time for all the things you need to do.”