Ex-Duck QB doesn't let bad knees get in way of new careers

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF COMCAST SPORTSNET - Nate Costa (middle) joins Jason Scukanec (left) and host Jordan Kent for a college football show 
on Comcast SportsNet Northwest.Star-crossed is one of the most haunting phrases in the English language. It means to be opposed by fate. No term so perfectly describes Nate Costa’s career with the Oregon Ducks.

In five years at the U of O, Costa was a backup quarterback, first to Jeremiah Masoli and then to Darron Thomas. Costa had all the potential to be a starter. But, partly due to four serious knee injuries, he wound up starting just one game.

After a knee injury midway through the 2010 season ended Costa’s playing career, he was ready to start the next chapter of his life. He was on his way to living his dream of being a police officer when fate dealt him another blow.

Costa, who was sworn in as a Springfield police officer in July 2011, had to leave the department a month later when he injured his knee while running an obstacle course on the first day of training at the Oregon Public Safety Academy.

“My entire education throughout college was pointed in that direction,” he says. “It was tough to be told that your body is not going to allow you to do this.”

A little later, though, fate finally began to smile on him. He became a broadcaster on the Comcast SportsNet Northwest show “Talkin’ Ducks” and started a private coaching practice for quarterbacks and receivers.

“I wish I could have continued with my law enforcement career,” Costa says. “But when your body tells you that you can’t do something, you just can’t do it.

“It’s cliché to say, but things happen for a reason. And I’m happy with the direction I’m going in right now. I am truly enjoying what I am doing.”

Costa was offered the job on “Talkin’ Ducks” largely because of the ability he showed handling interviews as a player.

Costa needed to learn a few TV things about eye contact and energy, but he quickly took to the new job.

“Having been in the huddle, Nate has brought an expert insider’s opinion and experience,” says Dave Kamens, executive producer at CSNNW. “I found him to be such a nice guy, and he comes across that way in television, which you can’t really teach.”

The Ducks still have players with whom he shared a locker room, and Costa has made a point of keeping a bond of trust with them. Hence, some details remain private, even though he is on the other side — part of the media.

“You have to do that,” he says of keeping some things confidential. “There’s a lot of information I’m provided with because I have friends who are in the locker room everyday. But I don’t share that information, because it’s not supposed to be out there.

“It’s not my job to break that information. That’s not the type of media member I am.

“It’s my job to share my experiences and break down complex things, put things into layman’s terms so people can understand them better. ”

Kamens says he was impressed with Costa’s first year on the Comcast show.

“He’s got a great football brain, and we’re lucky to have him,” Kamens says.

When Costa is not in the Comcast studio, he works with youth and prep football players. A product of private coaching coming out of his hometown of Hilmar, Calif., Costa has launched what he unofficially calls “Nate Costa Training.”

“There was a niche that needed to be filled,” Costa says, referring to a lack of private coaches in Oregon. “I figured I learned from the best (the UO coaches), and I had a lot of knowledge to share with these guys in Oregon and I might as well be the guy to fill that role.”

Costa estimates that he has 25 clients in Portland and Eugene ranging from age 9 to 18. He enjoys being able to pick and choose the coaching styles that he liked best in high school and college.

“I get to coach them in my own way,” Costa says. “I don’t have a head coach who’s above me and telling me to teach them certain things. I am the head coach. I get to use the things I like, and I get to leave out the parts that I didn’t like.”

The work could be a gateway for Costa to get into college coaching. For now, though, he is cautious about taking that step.

“I look at the college coaches and see the lifestyles they live as far as the strain it puts on their family because of the traveling,” Costa says. “And that’s why I’m not so eager to jump into that at this point. This is just a way for me to taste it — and so far, so good.”

His knees are still not as healthy as most people’s. He cannot yet play a full game of pickup basketball.

“It’s something I can continue to work on,” Costa says. “It’s still a struggle for me on a daily basis. But I’m not going to give up on it.”

To be closer to some of his clients as well as the Comcast studio, Costa has moved from Eugene to Beaverton. And the stars have finally aligned.

“I really like coaching,” he says. “I like the impression that you can have on the young athletes and that I can help them in their lives.

“And one thing that I worried about going into law enforcement was that I was going to be going away from my (Ducks) family. You take certain paths in life, and this path has led me back into that brotherhood.”

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