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Player ready to take it up a notch for Bucs

Joe Avento • Jul 23, 2019 at 4:52 PM

Nasir Player considers himself new and improved, and that could mean trouble for East Tennessee State’s opponents when the coming football season begins.

Player has undergone a new training regimen in an effort to tune himself up for his senior year. The defensive end from Columbia, South Carolina, was already an All-American and the Southern Conference’s preseason defensive player of the year, so it will be interesting to see what Nasir Player 2.0 brings to the field.

“I’ve been training differently,” Player said. “I’ve been doing a lot of research, been doing a lot of things differently to make me a better player.”

Player didn’t offer many details, but he says everything he’s been doing has been geared toward having a grand finale in an ETSU uniform.

“Really since January, I’ve been on a different mission, trying to change my body and get ready for this upcoming season,” he said. “It’s my last year and I want to go out with a bang.”

Player was listed at 6-foot-5, 271 pounds last season. He says he never weighed quite that much.

“I weigh 260 now and I have a lot less body fat,” he said. “I changed my diet and I changed my workout routine. I work out more often and I do different things now. It’s not just strength training. It’s flexibility. It’s speed.”

ETSU coach Randy Sanders said he expects Player to provide a lot for the team this season, on and off the field.

“We need him to be a dominant player for us on defense,” Sanders said. “We need him to provide leadership. We went from having an older, very experienced team last year to being a very young team this year. We’re going to need some guys like Nasir to step up and provide some leadership and maturity.

“Since I’ve been here, he’s been nothing but a great teammate and a great player and I look forward to the next five months to see what he can accomplish.”

When Player arrived on campus as a freshman, some of the coaches singled him out as a potential NFL prospect. When he was red-shirted his first season, the staff wondered out loud how good he could become five years later.

Now five years later is here and Player has lived up to the expectations. He might even have a chance to play the game he loves for a living next year, although he says he refuses to look that far ahead.

“I just try to look at this upcoming season,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been working toward.

“Ever since I started taking everything more seriously back in January, I wasn’t thinking about going to the next level. I was thinking about playing this season. I feel like you shouldn’t look too far ahead. You should focus on the moment.”

That’s not to say Player hasn’t taken time to imagine himself playing on Sundays.

“It’s in the back of my mind, but I try not to dwell on it,” he said. “If it’s for me, it will happen. Whatever’s mine will be mine.”

When Player was announced as the SoCon preseason player of the year on Monday, he considered it a team award.

“People are starting to take notice of ETSU as a whole, not just me,” he said. “When I came on my official visit, they hadn’t played any games yet. There was no stadium yet.

“Now we’re here. We have a stadium. We have a locker room. We just won the conference championship. So the groundwork has been set. ETSU is on the map.”

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