By Marcus Perez
While most of the Javelina family at Texas A&M – Kingsville doesn’t have football on their mind for another few months, the team’s senior quarterback Nate Poppell has already begun planning for the fall in terms of football and his life off the field.
Poppell understands the importance of the coming season and everything it entails.
The senior from Spring, Texas, has had an up-and-down career for the Javelinas, with last season being a microcosm of his stint with the Javelinas.
Poppell opened the season as the starting quarterback, but suffered injuries that limited his playing time. He passed for a career high 306 yards and two touchdowns while completing 26-of-42 passes against West Texas A&M in Cowboys Stadium.
He helped rally the team to a victory at Angelo State coming off the bench to pass for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the year second in school history with a career 60.0 completion percentage.
Poppell is in the top 10 in school history in pass completions (565), pass attempts (565), pass efficiency (125.6) and passing yards (3,811).
In spite of the sour memories, Poppell feels most at home at Javelina Stadium, the site he chose for this interview.
“ All the memories, good and bad, make me love this place. The stadium, this field, has become like a second home to me,” said Poppell.
Poppell is a true guy’s guy. He’s the type of person who could be friends with anyone, and makes everyone feel comfortable around him. He doesn’t just talk to a person, he wants to really hold a conversation.
His original plans, however, were never to be a part of the Javelina family as Poppell started his college football career at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“I don’t regret one bit deciding to come to Texas A&M Kingsville,” Poppell stated with confidence. “If I would have stayed at the University of Mary, I would have been a two-sport athlete, baseball and football, and probably would have been burned out pretty quickly.”
Poppell said he didn’t feel comfortable at his original school, and the possibilities for him at University of Mary seemed too condensed.
“Texas A&M Kingsville has provided me with opportunities I never would have had at University of Mary , so I’m glad I made the choice.”
He didn’t always feel like he would have the chance to even play.
“There was a time at the beginning of my career here where I even questioned if I would be able to play in a game at all. But it’s all about perseverance.”
Now, a recent undergraduate alum, Poppell is took this semester off from the football field due to academic restrictions.
As a part-time student graduate for this semester, he will have to wait until the fall semester to suit up with the rest of his teammates.
For now, Poppell also has to worry about where the real world will take him. His focus has shifted since last season from not only the goals of his team, but also what goals he has for a future career.
With a business degree already in hand, Poppell feels he has many options.
“I earned my degree in business marketing, but to be honest, I don’t know if it’s going to be something I pursue,” Poppell quips with a small laugh. “I got it because it’s very broad, and it has the possibility of a lot of growth in terms of business.”
Unsure of what possibilities he will choose to act on, Poppell has decided his education may be a better focus for now. He plans to continue his education to further himself and broaden horizons.
“I’m not stopping before I have a masters’ [degree], maybe multiple,” he said.
Education is clearly an important aspect of Poppell’s future. Even just recently at the beginning of the spring semester, his first in the College of Graduate Studies with a focus on psychology, Poppell continues to discover different areas that interest him.
“I’ve started grad school in psychology, and it’s the first time it’s really fun for me to go to class and learn how the mind works.”
His interest in psychology was spurred by a study abroad trip to Germany he took through AMK just this past summer.
While taking psychology courses abroad, Poppell had the opportunity to travel to various cities around Germany.
Poppell said the chance to study abroad was one of the best opportunities he’s had as a college student.
“It was my first time leaving the country, and once I was over there, I didn’t ever want to come back,” he said.
As Poppell reminisced about his study abroad trip, he has nothing but smiles and laughter to share with his stories of Germany.
“If I had the opportunity, I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d even like to spend a few years over there. That would be fun,” he said.
Poppell isn’t limiting his possibilities to only studying psychology, however. He is contemplating joining the armed forces.
“I’ve thought about joining the military, and talked to a few people about it,” he said.
Poppell said he could enter the Navy, or possibly Air Force, as an officer.
“I don’t think that I would like being at the bottom of the food chain, but being an officer could have its perks,” he joked. “The real reason I’ve thought about it is I could see the world, and have my education paid for at the same time,” he said.
But, as much as Poppell has to worry about his future after Texas A&M Kingsville, he still has one more fall of football left.
Coming off of a disappointing season in 2011, Poppell says numbers can’t define where his team will go this year.
“There’s more negative feedback we were giving ourselves than what others were giving us,” he said regarding the harsh criticism he and the rest of his teammates received from the outside community.
“What those other people say really doesn’t matter, because we’re ready to get the job done this year,” Poppell said.
Poppell said he and his fellow Javelinas are extremely focused, and he sees it. He speaks with great enthusiasm when it comes to his senior year of football.
“You know, this may be my last chance to play under those big stadium lights, so I plan on leaving everything I possibly can on the field for every game this season,” Poppell said.