Anyone who meets Nathan Conkey of Onalaska knows instantly that this gentle giant is a force of positivity, determination, and kindness. As a senior student-athlete at Onalaska High School, Nate exemplifies what it is to be a good citizen and a leader among his peers. He gives it his all on the field, in the classroom, and to his community.
Although Nate’s time as a Logger athlete is nearing its end, his journey here began way back in kindergarten when he started playing soccer. “My mom was my first coach,” he says. “I love her personality. She is a really good person with a caring heart.”
Nate’s mom Autumn and dad, Wayne, together with Nate’s two younger brothers, Alex and Sam, are his biggest fans. “I love their support, and I am grateful,” he says. “It is awesome to have them support me through everything I’ve done up to this point.”
Not only does Nate have wonderful support from his family, but the community of Onalaska as a whole is also an encouraging force for the young athlete. “Everybody knows him and loves him,” says Autumn. “They love to see him succeed. The teachers love him and he’s a hard worker in school, clubs, and sports. He stays very busy with activities, community services, etc. He loves playing in the band. In basketball, the crowd would be quiet, not paying too much attention, then Nate goes in, and suddenly there is cheering. If he scores a basket, the entire gym erupts. Last year, during the semifinals in football, the players talked the coach into letting him try to run the ball in for a touchdown. The center fumbled the ball before he could get it, but that’s the kind of support he gets.”
Coaching Logger football since 2009, head coach Mazen Saade is a big fan of Nate also. “Nate Conkey is one of my favorite people in the whole world,” says Saade. “When he was a kid, Nate would sit by myself and Coach Nelson in the front row at basketball games, and he would tell us that someday he was going to be a Logger football player.”
As the only senior football player this season, Coach Saade appreciates what Nate brings to the team. “He doesn’t miss practice, games, volunteer opportunities in our community, or fundraisers. He doesn’t miss anything,” says Saade. “Nate doesn’t take time off and all the while, he does not get very much playing time – he plays JV. He works his butt off every single day. As a coach, what else can you ask for?”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Logger quarterback Kayden Mozingo. “Nate is Nate,” says Mozingo. “When the other guys are done, he is still going while telling you to keep going more. To me, that’s incredible! He’s a great encouragement to the team.”
Excited about his senior year, Nate is a very busy guy. “It’s been a long journey with some neat stuff,” he says. Nate is currently ASB Vice President, FBLA President for the last three years, is part of the leadership council, plays basketball, runs track, and is in the band. In the last couple of years, Nate became a youth soccer and basketball referee. He enjoyed the money he earned, spending some on driver’s education and saving some. He volunteers working concessions and chains at underclassmen games and enjoys participating in local parades. He is also an outstanding student with high grades, earning him a spot on the principal’s list.
Nate credits his time participating in sports over his school years as a learning opportunity. “I’ve learned all about teamwork, how to be athletic and to include others,” he says. “Sports help me a lot, taught me life lessons and keeps me on my toes. The number one thing I’ve learned from my coaches is you only have four years to wear purple and gold, and you can do anything for the rest of your life. Wear it with respect and confidence!”
One thing Nate will carry with him after high school is the friendships he’s made. “I’ve gained friends over the years and keep in contact with them, especially last year’s seniors,” he shares. “To the team, thank you so much for being my teammates and my friends forever.”
“Every group has loved him,” Saade says. “Seniors from last year come back and check on him, and the years before too. They love and protect him, and he is truly part of their family. It’s one of the most special things I’ve seen as a coach and a teacher.”
Anyone who frequents a football field knows there is more to it than just athleticism. Time on the gridiron teaches lessons that the players carry with them long after they’ve hung up their jerseys. It requires learning how to handle successes and failures and a unique brand of teamwork that the Onalaska Loggers certainly have.
“One thing I’ve learned from Nate that anyone could learn from him is that you do your job to the best of your ability and then a little extra,” says Saade. “That is Nate every day, whether that be in school, sports or life. He does it all with a smile on his face and love in his heart. He’s one of the kindest people you will ever meet. Nate has taught these kids about love, compassion, dedication and determination, and that it doesn’t matter what challenges you have. Going hard every single day and doing your best is all you can do in life. If you do that, that’s a good day.”
Saade’s favorite memory of Nate was back in 2019 during week nine of their championship year. On a bye week, the coaches came out of the locker room to find Nate reciting the LEGO Movie verbatim for the team. “He looks at me, gives me one hand and says, ‘Not now coach,’ and the whole team looks at me like, oh no, he’s going to kill him,” says Saade. “The team started to giggle, and I said, ‘Whatever, finish it.’ The guys went nuts and dogpiled him.” When Saade returned to the locker room a short while later, Nate, now finished with his reenactment, said, “Okay, we are ready to go!” “I looked at him and thought, this is what football is about,” recalls Saade. “That one freshman kid can pull an entire team together. Amongst it, that is what we are out there for. Football is more than just a game. It’s about life and the lessons, the relationships you build, how to love one another.”
His teammates certainly are grateful for Nate’s joyful yet hardworking attitude. “He’s a fun teammate,” says Mozingo. “Nate is always jamming out. He loves music, and everyone loves music with him. He remakes songs that are amazing, and we play them in the weight room. We have a good time when Nate is around. He always keeps going. We have our starting varsity line in front of him, and he never gives up even though we don’t take it easy on him. We go at him, and he takes it.”
“People have ideas what they think Onalaska football is about,” says Saade. “We’re rough and tough, but if you look beyond that, you see Nate Conkey. That is what our program is about — love, compassion, hard work, and determination. He encompasses all of that. Nate is the heart of Onalaska football.”