A football player's demeanor can be like night-and-day on-and-off the field.
On the field, he's a fierce competitor. Off, well, it varies from individual to individual.
It's just the nature of the beast, especially when that player competes on the defensive side of the ball. Even more so when he's a nose tackle. You know, the big burly guy in the middle who can't move that well, but often clogs up the holes.
Former Bridgeport High School and West Liberty University standout Nate Maleski is an exception to that logic. The Hilltoppers' most recent All-American does both well.
Well enough to be selected to participate in Saturday's NCAA Division II vs. NAIA All-Star Game at Doug Shaw Stadium in sunny Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"It's definitely a privilege to play in a game like this," the 6-2, 300-pounder said Wednesday prior to departing for the contest, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. "I really can't put it into words."
I can understand that because he was always so very soft-spoken and humble.
I followed most of Maleski's high school career, and he was the same low-key person back then, even after a big victory which the Bulldogs often produced.
He was a two-way Division VI all-state lineman during his days as a Bulldog. However, he didn't shine on just one side of the ball as he was selected as an offensive lineman one year and a defensive lineman the next. That shows his versatility.
During his prep days in Bridgeport, he was also an all-OVAC basketball performer on Donnie Cash's Class A champions. That shows his agility.
In order to play nose tackle, you have to have both.
And not many in WLU history have played the position any better than Maleski did. This past season for the Black-and-Gold, he charted a fourth-best 58 total tackles, with 27 solo and 31 assists. He also recorded nine tackles-for-losses which resulted in minus 25 yards and a pair of quarterbacks sacks for 13 more negative yards. He had a pass breakup and a pass defended, as well as a pair of quarterback hurries.
All those statistics added up to a Division II All-American selection, as well as first-team all-MEC.
"I'm hoping that I do well enough to impress some people," he admitted about playing in the game. "I've worked really hard to get this far."
Has he ever thought about every little boys dream of playing in the NFL?
"I just want to take everything one step at a time. Do my best and see what happens. You never know."
Maleski and his parents loaded up and drove to Myrtle Beach late Wednesday night. Players, coaches and support staffs were to report today by 4 p.m. at the Sheraton Convention Center Hotel. Organizational meetings will held for each team and uniforms being passed out at 7.
On Friday, the two teams of all stars will work out at Doug Shaw Stadium in the morning to the All Star Luncheon. An afternoon practice will precede the EAC game between USA and Europe at 7 p.m.
The teams will conclude their preparations Saturday with final walk-throughs in the morning. Team photos will also be taken at that time.
In landing a spot in the game, Maleski had to acquire a few sponsorships. They included the Niekro Golf Classic, Bill's Towing and Sands Electric.
"I would like to really thank my sponsors," Maleski said. "I'm really thankful for them."
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org