Football: Fox brings mean streak to Widcats’ middle linebacker position


Source: Diana Porter/Vype

Nathan Fox looks to lead by example in his time at Northwestern. The three-star inside linebacker from Houston said he is eager to escape the Texas heat for the frigid Evanston climate.

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Plenty sticks out about Nathan Fox when watching his high school highlights. The 6-foot-3-inch, 222-pound inside linebacker has produced no shortage of big hits over his nascent career, but nothing is more impressive than his pair of onside kick recoveries.

“My job on onside kicks is usually to go hit the guy trying to get it,” Fox said. “I guess that was the plan, but sometimes I get hungry for the ball and just go and try to get it.”

Fox is the prototype of what a middle linebacker should be. He’s the kind of player who loves special teams as much as any part of the game, wanted to be a football player since he was in the third grade and grew up watching former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis, one of the best to ever play the position.

The fact that Fox modeled his game on Lewis comes as no surprise after watching him play. Fox’s highlight reel is packed with play after play of him knifing into the backfield unblocked for an easy takedown of the ball carrier. Fox believes his instincts are the best part of his game.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t even think during the play and I end up in the right spot,” Fox said. “My aggressiveness, just going and attacking balls, is probably what makes me most successful.”

It follows that Fox says coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former linebacker himself, was a big reason Fox decided to play for Northwestern.

Fitzgerald, however, downplayed his own ability to draw linebackers to his program.

“I can speak the language to them,” Fitzgerald said. “They don’t even know that I played, most of them … but yeah I enjoy that position.”

Fox also says linebackers coach Randy Bates — who has had at least one linebacker under his tutelage named to the media’s All-Big Ten Team Honorable Mentions each of the past three years — was a key factor.

Fox also admits he simply feels at home on campus and in Chicago. A product of Clear Lake High School in Houston, Texas, Fox will be a long way from the warmth he insists he isn’t a fan of.

“I hate the heat,” Fox said. “Even at our 7 p.m. football games I’m hot and sweaty and cramping. I’m ready to go somewhere that’s not quite as hot.”

Beyond a nose for the football and a love of the climate, Fox is bringing a chip on his shoulder to Evanston. He said he was a four-year varsity player but only had the experience of a winning season once, and that missed opportunity motivates him to work his hardest.

The recruit also sees a leadership role in his future.

“I lead by example,” Fox said. “I’m hungry to win, I’m going to work hard, study film … I hope I can help push our team in the right direction and really change the program around.”

It’s easy to see NU and Fox are great fits for each other. The linebacker is ranked as a top-30 recruit at his position by ESPN, Rivals and Scout, and projects well to continue the proud tradition the Wildcats have of producing excellent linebackers. Like many of his predecessors, Fox also brings a genuine love of the game to the position.

“I’ve always wanted to be a football player,” Fox said. “My first practice, I’m an 8-year-old kid, out of shape, kind of fat, but I still had a great time. … Ever since then it’s been football for me.”

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