FEET OF STRENGTH
Nate Crenshaw would have never imagined in middle school that his passion for soccer would lead him to a college football career.
Prior to his junior year of high school, Crenshaw had never played competitive football in his life. But the decision to give football a try in 2019 has led him down a path he could’ve never envisioned: providing a steady special teams role to a Wisconsin high school power and a future kicking career with the Division III Ripon Red Hawks.
The Bangor senior grew up with a passion for soccer, in large part due to his father’s background with the sport. His dad, Ben Crenshaw, was formerly the Sparta varsity boys’ soccer and his love for the game rubbed off on his son.
“My dad played soccer when he was in high school and he actually became the Sparta head coach for a long while,” Crenshaw said. “He taught me how to play and he was my coach growing up. He was there to support me. He didn’t force me (to play soccer), but he asked me if I wanted to play soccer and I said yeah. I really enjoyed playing it and I still do.”
Since Bangor doesn’t have a soccer team, Crenshaw ran cross country throughout middle school and into high school before deciding to give that up going into his junior year in 2019. But rather than sit on the sidelines during that fall sports season, Nate, at his father’s behest, decided to give football a try and approached Bangor varsity football head coach Rick Muellenberg about it.
“It was last year, after the season had started two or three weeks, he came up to me and he just asked me ‘can I play football? I’d like to try,’” Muellenberg said. “I said, ‘well aren’t you out for cross country’ and he said ‘no, I didn’t go out this year.’ So, I said ‘we’d love to have you.’ Last year was the first year he’d ever played football in his life.”
Though he was obviously very green at the position given his lack of experience with football, Crenshaw picked it up quickly and proved to be a major asset for the team.
Due to his soccer background, he naturally employed the soccer-style of kicking where the kicker approaches the ball from an angle and uses the inside of their foot to kick (as is commonplace now), rather than the old-school style of going straight on and using your toe like kickers of yesteryear.
Crenshaw got plenty of opportunities at extra points thanks to Bangor’s high-powered offense in 2019 and converted 50 of his 56 PAT attempts (an 89.3 percent conversion rate) on the season, earning him first-team all-conference honors at the conclusion of his first-ever year of football.
Though he was a late addition to the team, Crenshaw quickly forged bonds with his new teammates, and it left little doubt that he’d want to return for his senior season.
“The camaraderie with all the players, it’s fun to hang out with all the guys,” Crenshaw said. “A lot of them are fun, joking around and when it gets to game time, get serious. That camaraderie that’s there is something that I really do cherish.”
His coaches also approached him about possibly expanding his role on the team, and Crenshaw was happy to acquiesce. He now sees more time in the secondary for the Cardinals in addition to his kicking duties.
Through four games this season, Crenshaw has continued to provide Bangor a steady foot on special teams. He’s converted 19 of 23 extra points and also made a pair of field goals in the team’s season opener against Wauzeka-Steuben/Seneca.
And for all the success the program has experienced in recent years, Muellenberg can’t recall a more reliable kicker than Crenshaw. He’s someone who is reliable on extra points, can be trotted out for field goal tries if the situation calls for it and will consistently boot the ball on a high trajectory and inside the 10 on kickoffs.
At the high school level, a player like that should not be taken for granted.
“He’s definitely is an unsung hero,” Muellenberg said. “I mean, everybody on our team appreciates him and I definitely do, just because we know what he does day in and day out. It’s a luxury to have him on our team.”
For his part, Crenshaw is parlaying his newfound love of football into a playing career beyond high school. He was recruited by the Ripon Red Hawks and will be a part of their football team next fall.
Not bad for a kid who had never even played the sport prior to his junior year of high school.
“I would have never thought I’d be playing college football. It’s definitely something that I wouldn’t have thought about in middle school or even high school,” Crenshaw said. “It’ good to take opportunities and I’m extremely glad and thankful for all the people — the coaches, my dad and my family, just everyone who supported me making that decision.”