Nate Ellsworth had heard the coach's speech before.
So when he was pulled aside after tryouts during his senior year, Nate knew the other basketball shoe was about to drop."I think you're a tremendous young man, Nate, but we don't have a spot on the team for you. I'm sorry," the coach told the soft-spoken 17-year-old priest in the Traverse City 1st Branch, Traverse City Michigan District.
Nate loved basketball. For three years in junior high school, and for three years at high school in Traverse City, Mich., he entered tryouts with high hopes. Each year he worked to hone skills and increase strength. But each time he heard "the speech."
But to be cut during his senior year was almost more than he could endure, especially after he had been allowed to play on the team for several games as a junior to fill an unexpected vacancy on the roster.
Nate, however, accepted the coach's offer to be team manager. He could have been jealous watching others play. Instead, he responded with encouragement.
"Nate is so loved, so respected throughout the school, he has such a solid character and easy-going manner about him. He treats everyone as if they're the greatest person on the face of the earth," said his coach during an interview with the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
A teammate who competed against Nate for a spot on the team during tryouts was so impressed with Nate's impassioned play that he submitted an article to the school newspaper detailing Nate's upbeat attitude and described how his influence strengthened team spirit.
During the year, the coach considered Nate's devotion and humble example and wanted to reward him with an opportunity to play. With approval of the team captains, Nate was given a uniform to dress for the remaining four games of the season. During one game, after scoring eight points and grabbing eight rebounds, the 6-foot-3 forward didn't want the game to end and lingered until he was the last to leave.
After the season, during an awards banquet, three seniors graduating with Nate each expressed their gratitude and admiration for his example of good-natured perseverance.