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SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone who has watched former Utah defensive end Nate Orchard play football quickly sees the passion and drive he has for the game. It's an aspect of life that has shaped who he is and has helped him overcome the many adversities he has faced over the years.
But football is just part of who Orchard is: "I'm a husband, a father and a hard worker." That's the message Orchard tells prospective NFL teams when asked about who he is in the interview process leading up to the draft.
Watching Orchard interact with his young daughter may give the impression he's soft, calling her his "little princess" and melting at her innocent requests, but he said having a family has made him "even better."
"It makes waking up and going to work a little easier. It motivates me every day and it makes those hard days less stressful," he said. "It’s great to be married and to have an amazing wife that supports me in everything I do. I lucked out big time and definitely out-kicked my coverage. I married my high school sweetheart, and to have her by my side along the process has been a relief."
But when on the football field, Orchard is all business as he transforms to the job at hand. The so-called "mayor of Sack Lake City" means business and is not holding back any extra effort each day as he battles on the front lines. His 6-foot-3, 250-pound frame is a presence not to be overlooked, and his dedication to giving it all to the sport epitomizes his character and work ethic.
"I feel like I’m wise beyond my years like I’ve been through so much as a kid through my teen years and have just shaped me to who I am," Orchard said. "Now that I have a wife and daughter it allows me to be an even better person. It’s an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t change it for the world."
I think I'm a very versatile athlete and I think I can do both. Being at Utah I had a chance to play both; a similar role to (former Ute) Trevor Reilly — the hybrid player. Wherever I go, I'll do a great job, and I think I'll transition pretty smoothly.
Football and the opportunity to soon play at the highest level is a vehicle to a better life and a reward to a life (riddled) with struggles and adversities, but one Orchard knows he can excel at wherever he is selected in the draft.
"I’ve got a great work ethic and I think that’s just hard to find," he said. "I’m just really passionate about the game, and I can’t wait for it to be a full-time job instead of being a student athlete. Football is going to be my life, and wherever I end up I’m going to be excited to be there."
Orchard is seemingly a lock in this year's NFL draft, projected sometime before the fourth round. His position at the next level is a bit of a question, with some teams seeing him as a linebacker while others see him as a smaller defensive end. But Orchard sees it as just another feather in the metaphorical cap when talking about his versatility and ability to play well in multiple positions.
"I think I’m a very versatile athlete and I think I can do both. Being at Utah I had a chance to play both; a similar role to (former Ute) Trevor Reilly — the hybrid player," Orchard said. "Wherever I go, I’ll do a great job, and I think I’ll transition pretty smoothly."
Orchard has gone from a skinny wide receiver at Highland High School, where he won a state championship, to a Ted Hendricks Defensive End Award winner looking to "make a dream a reality." From the Senior Bowl, where he was named the North team’s defensive MVP for his five total tackles and two tackles for loss to a decent showing at the NFL Combine and Pro Day, Orchard is ready to show his skills off in the NFL.
Orchard is projected to go sometime in the second or third round. But he’s not necessarily concerned with when he goes, but more just looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NFL.
“It’s weird ’cause growing up as a kid I could only imagine what if. You always have dreamed of it,” he said. “But now that it’s here I have an opportunity to make a dream a reality. And to know that I’m going to get drafted, who knows where, but eventually I’m going to be playing for an NFL team.”
Orchard left Utah as a first-team All-American after leading the nation in sacks per game his senior season with 1.46 and second in total sacks with 18.5. Orchard is tied for third in school history in school sacks with 25.
Contributing**:** Jeremiah Jensen