Under the bright lights of Reliant Stadium in Houston, one of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s very own lives out his dream. Of the thousands of athletes within and beyond the NCAA, Nate Menkin joins the lucky few among his peers to stand out as a professional athlete.
It wasn’t until his senior year in 2011 with Cru football that Menkin began to realize that his size and stats compared to that of NFL linemen. Soon, the thought of reaching the NFL drove the offensive tackle to push his efforts into overdrive.
“(Menkin) took a lot of pride in getting his body physically prepared to be the best that he could be,” said Joe George, UMHB’s offensive line coach.
Menkin started all 13 games in the Cru’s 2011 season and was a part of an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks over the course of the season and blocked for an offense that racked up more than 3,700 yards rushing. After turning heads at Baylor’s pro day, Menkin went on to the Super Regional Combine in Detroit to post impressive numbers: 5.0 second 40-yard dash, 39 repetitions of 225 pounds on bench press. He weighed in at 294 pounds and measured six feet four inches in height.
Menkin graduated from UMHB in May, and did so as an undrafted free agent for the Houston Texans after signing with them in late April. Now halfway through preseason, he is competing for a spot on the Texans roster.
The rookie has seen a couple dozen snaps in the two victories he has shared with the Texans, two games deep into the preseason, but still has much to prove.
Patrick Starr, editor and owner of the website State of the Texans, touched briefly on Menkin in an article previewing Texans training camp.
“Not many people have heard of this Division III offensive tackle from Mary Hardin-Baylor … but this Lago Vista native is a player to watch.”
He has the strength and size to compete; however, there is one thing that critics point out time and time again.
“(Menkin) will have to make a huge jump from Division III football to the NFL level,” continued Starr in that same article.
Menkin himself admits that at first coming from a Division III school did have an effect on him mentally because he wasn’t used to the competition. Additionally, his technique wasn’t as fine-tuned because he played Division III.
“I was … bigger and stronger than a lot of my competition, and my technique didn’t have to be as good. So there was definitely a big learning curve once I got here.”
There are also those who believe that the size of his school has nothing to do with it.
“Well, there’s a lot of (Division I) linemen that are not on an NFL roster; so evidently the scouts saw something in him that they liked,” George pointed out, “I’m sure that it’s his work ethic and his willingness to be the best he can be.”
Though Menkin has worked hard to reach this point in his career, he still credits God for reaching the NFL.
“You can’t say it’s luck or anything. It’s obviously divine intervention,” Menkin said. “He’s just paving the path for me, and I’m just taking advantage of every opportunity he’s giving me.”
The UMHB alum will finish preseason, which, for the Texans, consists of a trip out of state to the Superdome and the Saints and ends at home against Minnesota. Menkin has until then to convince the Texans coaching staff that he deserves to survive the 53-man roster cut at the end of the month.