RIPLEY, W.Va. — An opportunity to attend a U.S. service academy and play football was ultimately too good to pass up for Ripley senior linebacker Nathan Tucker who recently signed to attend and play football at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

“The process was very long – there are a lot of applications and hoops that you have to jump through,” Tucker said. “I was actually nominated to four service academies, but this was the one that I decided to go to and playing football just added to it – it’s a little cherry on top.

“The education from all of the service academies are tremendous,” he continued. “I thought I would do well there. The classes are small, it’s a small graduating class with 220 members. Just the size and the opportunity (were keys).”

The Coast Guard football program competes on the Division III level out of the New England Football Conference. The Bears went 3-7 overall in 2013 under veteran coach Bill George.

“I’m going to play linebacker,” Tucker said. “They play a three-front with three down-linemen defensively. Being a service academy, they can’t really recruit a lot of bigger guys, so they play with three-down linemen and a bunch of guys my size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) that are maybe a little smaller. But there’s a lot of penetration and a lot of movement, that type of thing.”

Tucker finished his football career at Ripley with 154 total tackles – that’s including a sophomore year where he only played three games due to an ACL tear.

Contributed photo

Ripley’s Nathan Tucker will play linebacker for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

“I was running downfield on a kickoff, got hit and blew my knee out – I actually played the rest of the half and it swelled up,” Tucker said. “It was bad at the time because I was upset and torn up, but it’s actually been probably one of the more beneficial things that’s ever happened to me. It’s made me work hard and see that, to get to your goals, you maybe have to work a little harder than everyone else. It’s actually been a blessing in disguise.”

As for plans after he graduates, Tucker initially will be required to serve five years with the Coast Guard.

“A lot of their graduates actually do drug enforcement along the southern coast – I might be interested in some of that,” he said. “They’ve also had several kids within the past five years from the football program who are actually now Navy SEALs. That might be kind of interesting.”

The complete interview with Tucker is posted above.

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