When a football player can run 40 yards in 4.6 seconds, he's considered good. When he runs it in 4.4, he's fast. Nate Soelberg runs it in 4.2 seconds.
HOW FAST IS HE?
His time is astonishing, considering speed sensation Deion Sanders of the Baltimore Ravens runs the 40 in 4.19.
With Soelberg's speed, it's no wonder the 172-pound senior from West Valley is a sprinter on the BYU track team. But don't let that fool you.
Soelberg is quick to point out that he's a football player who runs track, not the other way around.
Soelberg is a 6-foot cornerback and is far from his first days in 1999 as an incoming freshman from Granger High School. Through high school he played wide receiver and running back. Soelberg walked on to the BYU team as a wide receiver.
Football recruiters had noticed him during a stellar track performance his senior year, but because track is so late in the year, it was too late for a football scholarship and Soelberg was told to walk on and prove himself. He did just that, joining other Granger High alum Fahu Tahi, who arrived the same year.
Defense, Cougars, Defense
The tables turned after redshirting in 1999 as a receiver and taking two years off to serve a Church mission in Norway. After his return came a request from former coach Gary Crowton to move to the defensive side of the ball. He admits it was a difficult adjustment.
"I was willing to do anything they asked me to--I knew I needed to step up and just do it," Soelberg said. "At first I was like 'okay, they trust me to be a corner, there must be something there.' It's taken me a while to make the switch from offense to defense."
Soelberg eventually proved his ability and last year he played in 10 of 11 games. Over the past three years Soelberg has become more and more comfortable as a defensive player and at the beginning of the season said he hoped he could help newer athletes understand their role.
"Being the oldest and most experienced corner that we have, I hope to be able to show the younger guys the right way to do stuff, while at the same time master the position and perfect the things I need to work on," he said.
Soelberg continued that leadership role this season. Despite a broken wrist sustained in the first game of the season against Boston College, Soelberg continued to play with a cast on his arm. He remained one of the team's top tacklers, second only to Cameron Jensen in total tackles until a compound fracture to his other arm in the Colorado State game ended the regular season and perhaps, his football career at BYU.
Brian Mitchell, the assistant coach in charge of cornerbacks, said the switch to the defensive end of the ball was a smart move and he hoped Soelberg will master his position this year.
"He gave us the lockdown corner that we like to have in this game," Mitchell said. "He's got the speed, he's got the lateral presence and he's got the experience. He also has the knowledge base about what we want to get done defensively."
Coach Mitchell, who also competed in both track and football from 1987-1990 at BYU, said Nate's combination of the two sports is a positive shift for him athletically.
"I think any young man that has the ability to do both track and football has some special gifts, and Nate has some special gifts with his speed," he said. "Any time you can develop that speed even more, that's only going to help and enhance his football career."
Two Years Later
Another alteration apparent to Soelberg after his mission was a change in his physical capabilities.
"I felt slower," he said. "It was hard getting back into the speed shape, but I was able to lift more. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it was a little difficult."
Soelberg did say he could definitely see similarities between a mission and the football field.
"There's always going to be bigger guys that you face, it's going to be a challenge," he said. "It's the hardest and the most fun time of your life."
Somethings you're just born with and some you've got to develop. Soelberg's current speed is a combination of both of those things, but Soelberg, whose dad also competed in track and basketball in high school, said his genes definitely play a big part in his ability to move quickly.
"My brother was fast and apparently my dad was fast--at least he'll tell you that," he jokes. "I was just lucky."
Soelberg admits that speed was apparent from an early age.
"You run around at recess and you can just tell you're faster than everyone else," he said.
But when he came to BYU he realized running was not going to be as easy for him as it had been. It was definitely not like his track career had been through his junior-high and high-school years.
"I noticed working here at BYU with the track team that my work ethic had to be up to par to be able to compete," Soelberg said. "Here, you push yourself. My times have shown that my workouts really do help."
Soelberg now runs the 60 meters and the 100 meters for the track team, but didn't become involved in BYU's track program until after his mission. His best times are a 10.34 finish in the 100-meter dash and a 6.68 finish in the 60-meter dash.
Indoor track and field begins in January and as a result, Soelberg has grown accustomed to moving straight into track after football is completed. But it's not the first time he's had to juggle multiple sports. In high school it was a year-long ordeal. As soon as the football pads came off, it was straight into basketball season. From there, he ran track and played club volleyball.
According to Nate, volleyball was his most-preferred sport out of the many in which he involved himself. He was named Most Valuable Player his junior year for volleyball.
Participation in sports takes time and dedication, and for a year-round athlete like Soelberg, it requires a lot of organization as well.
"I learned to manage my time between classes really well," he said. "When I have an hour break, I go down to the computer lab and work. Then after practice I study as well."
If he ever does have time for anything outside of school and sports, Soelberg said he likes to head to the bowling alley. His best score is a 246, which is impressive considering that a perfect score is 300. Another fact about him most people would not guess is the fact that he admittedly watches an occasional "chick flick." He said his favorite is "A Walk To Remember."
Despite his busy schedule, Soelberg has excelled in academics at BYU and holds Academic All-Mountain West Conference honors for both football and track.
Although he will not graduate until April, Soelberg is finishing his last classes for his degree in recreational management this semester. He will then complete an internship during winter semester. He said he would like to get a job along the lines of an athletic director or sports programmer.
Support and someone to look up to are keys to success for many people, and Soelberg is no exception. He said he chose what sports to pursue by following in the footsteps of his older brother, Matt.
"I looked up to my brother, he was two years ahead of me and I always just wanted to do what he did," Soelberg said. "We were pretty close outside of sports, but within sports we had something to relate to."
His parents have also encouraged him throughout his athletic pursuits and they attend all of the football home games and many away as well. His dad, Steve Soelberg, drove to Fort Collins, Colo., to watch a track meet. He said he just loves to watch his son compete.
"Playing sports has shown me how much my parents care about me, how much they support me," he said. "They love me. They want me to succeed in what I love to do."
His mother, Terry, said Nate hates to be in the spotlight but is very much a perfectionist, as evidenced by his managing of sports and academics. She has three other children and said she and her husband have supported each of them in what they've chosen to do.
"Even though it's hard to go to everything, your kids need your support no matter what they're doing," she said. "Through his whole life we'll always be there for whatever he's doing and wherever he's at."
Playing BYU Ball
Looking the part definitely contributes to the feeling of the team according to Soelberg. He said the new uniforms help people get excited. But the vintage style the team is sporting this year is not the only thing that's been altered.
"There's just a different feel within the team. Everybody's expecting so much from both sides of the ball," Soelberg said. "In previous years it's just been how are we doing defensively or how are we doing offensively and now it's like both sides are getting on each other to make plays and rallying around each other."
The team has been through many changes since Soelberg stepped onto the field for the first time, and he said he feels fortunate to be a part of it.
"This is a special place," Soelberg said. "I watched BYU my whole life, always rooted for BYU growing up. It's just surreal to think how I looked up to the players as a youngster and how I am in that position now for a lot of people. There are a lot of guys that would love to be in my shoes. I think wow, 'I made it in here.' Thank goodness for sports!"
GRIDDERS WHO DOUBLED UP
Besides being second team all-state in football, Nate Soelberg's track efforts were phenomenal his senior year of high school. He was the 5-A State Champion in the 100 meters as well as the long jump, and still counts that as one of his most memorable athletic moments. He also had a fifth-place finish in the 200 meters at the state competition.
Soelberg has now competed three consecutive years for the BYU Track and Field team. In 2003, he was a member of the 4x100m relay team that took first in the Mountain West Conference. He also set his record time of 10.34 in the 100 meters to finish first at the MWC Outdoor Championships.
During 2004, Soelberg won the 60m at the Utah State Invitational with a time of 6.83, and he contributed with two first-place finishes on the 4x100 relay team. He consistently placed near the top in the 100 meters, including a season-best time of 10.43 at the Wilson Motor Qualifier to place second.
For the second year in a row, Soelberg took second in the MWC Outdoor Championships in the 2005 season. He ran the race in 10.56. He also took second in the 100 meters at the Robison Invitational and third at the Weber Twilight. On top of these things, he was named Academic All-MWC, which requires above a 3.0 GPA.
Other BYU Football and Track Athletes
Eli Herring, OT 1987, 91-94
Lloyd Jones, WR 1978-1980
Brian Mitchell, DB 1987-1990
Patrick Mitchell, DB 1987-1990
Jim Roberts, DE 2001