Senior Nathaniel Graybeal is the latest Longhorn to join the long line of Johnson County athletes to move on and apply their talents at the next level. Following both his passion for golf and more importantly his strong sense of faith, Graybeal narrowed the field down to Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. He immediately struck up a friendship with Head Coach Peter Bollant.
I think Nathaniel has a lot of potential in his game, Bollant said. Hes a guy thats a hard worker and has a good coaching ethic. He has a real chance to excel. One of the things that sets our school apart is that were looking for young men and women who want to change the world and I see him having the kind of values, character, and family so that not only will he excel on the golf course but will also do well in the school and work overall to make a difference in the world.
That faith-based attitude with a sense of higher purpose was actually one of the main reasons that Graybeal made the decision to go with Bryan College. I just went through a bunch of schools and applied, Graybeal said. I looked at them and contacted different coaches, and kind of just took it all in, but really it was Bryan Colleges slogan, Christ Above All. That really hit home with me. I believe that is the biggest reason, because they are a college that puts Christ first.
Graybeal formally put the pen to paper last week, making his decision official in front of friends, family, and teammates at Johnson County High School. Yet this was merely the culmination of several months of meeting with Bollant, assessing Graybeals abilities as a golfer, and getting a feel for how the senior will fit in with the program.
One of the things we try to work for, and Im not saying every kid we get is always that way, but were looking for kids that are not only outstanding athletes but have a lot of character, Bollant elaborated. Ive met Nathaniels parents, his family. His dad stayed with us while he was here visiting the school and theyre just an outstanding family. I look for a lot of potential. The kids that I ideally want are hard workers that want to develop their game. Theyre disciplined; theyve done well academically, and also want to make a difference in the world. They have great values and character. With character especially comes a strong Christian family. Were making disciples that want to impact the world.
While the opportunity to move on and play college level golf is both exciting and a testament to a players skill, the one person possibly the saddest to see him go is Johnson County Head Coach Steve Arnold. A major part of the team along with fellow senior Blade Hampton, Graybeal will certainly leave behind a long legacy, but Arnold was still pleased that he has been able to find a program that seems tailor made to his background.
Im not surprised at all, Arnold said about Graybeals choice. After my first conversation with their coach, I knew Nathaniel would be a perfect fit because of the type of young man he is, and that is due to the way his parents have raised him. They are a big reason why he is going to fit at this school. Any time a senior can play a sport in college at any level, its a great accomplishment. He has shown the results of what work and dedication will lead to, and not having him next year, someone is going to have some big shoes to fill. Not only Nathaniels, but for Blade Hampton also. We lost two of the best kids Ive been associated with, but we have eight players returning next year that are from the same mold, so the season looks very promising.
An unique sport in many regards, both Bollant and Arnold had a lot to say about Graybeals character as a person, indicating their believe that in golf attitude is often more important that simple raw athletic ability. With a lot of players we look at how they have done in high school, what level theyve been playing in, what level have they been coached, and what type of tournaments have they played in, said Bollant. When we look at kids, we look at their ability, and especially their ability to improve. Ive seen kids that come out early, 12-13 years old, but theyve already peaked. Those kids unless they are really, really good are not going to improve a lot. I look at Nathaniel, I looked at his swing, I looked at his ability to play, and I said this is a kid that has quite a bit of ability to improve. Nathaniel is very humble, a hard worker, has a real disciplined nature, not just on the golf course, but in the classroom and in his personal life. Those are the types of kids that ideally fit very well in our school.
Arnold seemed to have much the same opinion of Graybeals future career, noting his uniquely almost stoic approach to the game. Nathaniel has the golf attitude that you must have to compete, Arnold said. He is very even keel, not upset about a bad shot or a bad round; not over confident about a good round. He plays with a real focus, not just hitting the ball, but a go hit it again attitude. Every shot has purpose. He thinks as he plays and that is so important.
Even Graybeal himself admits that the patience and self-reflection found in golf are a real part of his love for the game. Golf is the type of game where one day youre on top and the next day youre on the bottom, Graybeal noted. You even see that with professionals like Tiger Woods. You have to look at yourself and apply it to your life. One day youre not going to be all there and there are going to be trials. Its just a really humbling sport.
Graybeal actually began his newfound association with Bryan College back in September of last year, but it is only now as the weeks until graduation grow short that the real implications of moving on are setting in. A lifelong resident of Johnson County with strong ties to his community, Graybeal has naturally faced some sadness at the thoughts of leaving, but seems to be equally excited to turn to the next chapter in his life.
Im going to miss the people, Graybeal began, the people I grew up with. Everybody knows everybody. Its far enough away where you cant drive home every weekend, but I want to take the opportunity because I am actually looking at a career in golf course management and that would maybe help with that. Really, I just want to get better and apply it toward my life.