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SZN Opener Episode 3: Football’s Greatest Lessons with Duke Defensive Back Nate Vail


Welcome back to SZN Opener, CASSIUS’ sports podcast that focuses on the unique journeys of Black athletes in college.

In Episode 3, host Lamar Hurd goes in-depth with Duke University defensive back Nate Vail about life as a student-athlete. Born and raised in Georgia, Vail came out of Harrison High School as one of the top DBs in the country.

Vail developed his love of football under his father’s support and guidance. It was in high school that he realized that football could lead to something greater. “At that point, I realized how many doors football could open up, and that’s when I started really grinding to open up those doors for myself,” he says.

He credits his coaches from past and present with keeping him grounded, motivated, and humble throughout his football journey. He describes how he made his decision to attend Duke, and what he’s learned from his college experience thus far.

Vail recognizes the importance of balancing work and play despite his rigorous schedule packed with practice, training, class, plus homework and watching film on his downtime. “Having a life too, being able to go out, see people, meet people. Because you still want to enjoy college but you have to manage all that, so it’s a lot,” he says.

Hurd and Vail discuss the different personalities that come with each position on the field. “I feel like all positions have a different personality. If you look at my team for example… usually each position group carries their own personality. I’d say you’ve got to have some swagger about you, some confidence,” he says.

Vail describes getting through the early days of COVID while in high school. “For maybe 2 months we weren’t able to lift with my high school, so I would lift at my friend’s house,” he says. “But lifting with two of my teammates, I definitely got better and it was good to be able to lift, because I know some guys weren’t able to.”

Coming from Kennesaw, Georgia to a powerhouse like Duke was Vail’s little fish jumping into the big pond. “In high school, you’re kind of that star athlete… you’re that dude at your high school in your area,” he says. “But I think getting to college, you kind of get humbled a little bit. You realize you gotta do more. You realize it’s more than football, you gotta be focused in everything that you do… because whatever you put on film, whatever you put in the grade book, it’s a representation of you and who you are.”

Listen to the podcast here on the Urban One podcasts platform or your favorite streaming app.

SZN Opener Episode 3: Football’s Greatest Lessons with Duke Defensive Back Nate Vail  was originally published on