Nate Tanguay will never have the gaudy stats or a record-breaking sack performance. His role in the “Code Green” defense goes much deeper than the box score.
To the naked eye, number 99 on the Bison defensive line looks like someone you would find in an action movie. He’d play the enforcer, the guy who brings the muscle when the protagonist is in a jam and needs someone to bring the heavy guns for backup. He’s not an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, but plays someone with the responsibility of protecting stars like Tom Cruise, Jason Statham or Daniel Craig.
Nate Tanguay is a team player along the defensive line in a sense. Simply put, he has an edge you wouldn’t want to mess with or be anywhere near his path when the main character is in a pickle.
One by one, Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive linemen are learning the painful day at the office they’re in for when lining up across Tanguay in the trenches. But the guy you see on the field is someone his teammates don’t relate to in the locker room or before team meetings.
Tanguay, the bruiser, at least on the field, is more likely to talk shop about the latest movie trailer and bust your chops than intimidate you with a deep voice and no- nonsense attitude.
Tanguay’s roommate knows him better than anyone and laughed when Tanguay’s tough-guy game day persona was inquired about.
“I would say he’s a huge softie,” chuckled junior linebacker Matt Plank, who has lived with Tanguay for three years.
Anyone who has watched a Bison game over the last three years would describe Tanguay’s performance on the field as nowhere near soft. He started every game since entering the starting lineup against Iowa State in 2014, which was his redshirt freshman season. He’s clogged the middle of the line-of-scrimmage for opponents week after week, playing either the three-technique or lining up across the center in the nose tackle position. Tanguay even earned an honorable mention spot on the All-MVFC team in 2015.
“He’s one of those guys who’s joking around, but once the whistle is blown and the ball is snapped, it’s all seriousness,” sophomore Aaron Steidl said about his fellow defensive tackle. “In the meeting room, he’ll come in listening to music and he’ll say, ‘Hey, have you watched this movie yet’ or ‘Have you seen this trailer yet?’ And all of a sudden coach comes in to watch film and he won’t say a word for two hours.”
Defensive tackle coach Nick Goeser also sees that focus in the film room. Before last season’s playoff run, he noted Tanguay’s emerging brilliance while watching tape. The junior has been said to have a knack for recognizing opponent’s formations and making fortuitous improvisations before and during plays that result in big plays for the Bison defense.
The Bison were leading Missouri State 10-3 toward the end of the second quarter when Tanguay left his mark on NDSU’s first conference road game of the season. Bears quarterback Brodie Lambert dropped back to pass on 3rd-and-21 from his own 25. Tanguay bull-rushed his way through the Missouri State guard and while the two linemen were engaged, Tanguay swung his left arm toward the throwing arm of Lambert. Tanguay got his paw on the ball, it tumbled to the turf, NDSU fell on it and the Bison offense was back in business.
“He watches enough film for everyone on the team from looking at backfield sets and he’s figuring out what the coverages are,” Steidl said. “And I don’t know why he needs to know that but he’s figuring out where guys are and where the fits are. I think his biggest asset is that.”
Tanguay would say his biggest asset to the team is drawing as many double-teams as possible. The disruption he creates when blocked one-on-one almost guarantees he sees more than one opposing player trying to contain him on nearly every play, and in some situations, it takes three blockers.
“I’m ticked off because I’m getting triple teamed, but it’s a good feeling because it’s helping everyone else out,” Tanguay said. “I guess you could say, we’re the best team players because that’s what our job is.”
A team player—the exact role he would play in an action movie. But Tanguay’s movie genre preference isn’t what you’d think. The six-foot, four-inch, 290-pound movie buff would rather cuddle up with his favorite movie, “Definitely, Maybe” or “The Holiday.”
“I’m ticked off because I’m getting triple teamed, but it’s a good feeling because it’s helping everyone else out.” – Nate Tanguay
“He goes through thousands of them,” Plank said. “I’ll come home from the library or something and he’ll be watching some romantic comedy like ‘Good Luck Chuck.’”
“I do, I love them,” Tanguay said with a smile about his rom-com preference. “I’m not even gonna lie, I get into it.”
Hence the “softie” description from Tanguay’s roommate Plank. But the linebacker knows where his bread is buttered.
“We always joke the defensive line makes all our tackles for us,” Plank said. “They take all the blocks. I mean, Nate Tanguay in the middle is taking up double teams all the time so I’m roaming free making tackles.”
NDSU’s action star along the defensive line isn’t your classic stat-sheet filling player. Tanguay fills his thankless role at a high level and ensures the Hollywood-esque “Bison Dynasty” blockbuster remains a college football box office hit.