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Top 15 CU Buffs football players of the decade - #3

Ryan Koenigsberg Avatar
June 10, 2015


For the next couple weeks we will be counting down the top 15 Colorado football players since the 2005-2006 season. Of course, it’s not the most fun decade to be looking at, but I think the down period created an interesting challenge when creating this list.

As it always goes with these lists, there is not an exact formula to determine the top 15, I tried to weigh a player’s success at CU over all other factors, but of course things like NFL success and fan favorite status creeped into the decision making process.

I’m sure people will disagree with placement, or certain players being left off, but that’s part of the fun of these, so as we work down the list, let me know where you disagree!

#3 – Nate Solder

Colorado’s one and only Consensus All-American from the offensive tackle position, Nate Solder was a three year starter and a four year contributor who played 2,540 out of 2,542 possible offensive snaps his sophomore through senior seasons. A homegrown product out of Buena Vista High School, Solder allowed just five sacks on 1,4oo pass plays his last three seasons.

A three-star tight-end (rivals) coming out of high school, Solder redshirted and added 25 pounds bringing him up to 6-foot-8 265 pounds. Then  as a redshirt-freshman, he played in all thirteen games, primarily as a blocking tight end.

In the offseason after his freshman year, Solder put on another 30 pounds, as he took on the challenge to move to left tackle, and boy did it pay off. The big man, took the starting role by storm, playing every single offensive snap, including an nearly perfect game against Kansas State where he graded out to 98.8 percent, the highest grade by any CU lineman since 1990.He led all CU linemen with 69 knockdown blocks, and added three touchdown blocks, while allowing just one sack.

As a junior, Solder began to gain recognition, picking up first-team all-Big XII honors, as selected by the leagues coaches as well as fourth-team All-American by College Football Insiders. Nate started all 12 games again, and led the team with 97 finishing/knockdown blocks and seven touchdown blacks. He allowed just three quarterback sacks and four pressures, while being called for only five penalties. For the second consecutive year, he was on of the recipients of CU’s Gold Group Commitment Award which recognized excellence with class in a variety of areas.

As a senior captain, Solder absolutely blew up, the list of awards and achievements is nearly endless:

  • One of three finalists for the Outland Trophy.
  • Consensus All-American.
  • Unanimous first-team All-Big 12.
  • Selected by the coaches as the Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year.
  • Named Male College Athlete of the Year by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
  • 94.3 percent grade for the season.
  • ESPN.com ranked him as the No. 5 “freak” in the nation in terms of conditioning (playing at 6-foot-9, 315 pounds.

Solder was simply dominant.

Nate is one of the few on this list, whose career actually has taken a step up since leave CU. He was selected 17th overall by the New England Patriots in the 2011 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he started 13 of 16 games and allowed just three sacks, four pressures and 5 penalties on 880 snaps.

After starting left tackle Matt Light, retired in 2012, Solder was slotted in as the Patriots starter at that position, protecting the blind-side of NFL legend Tom Brady, and he hasn’t relinquished the role since.

Solder’s career highlight may have come just this past season, when he went back to his roots at tight end, and caught a touchdown pass in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, as you probably know, the Pats went on to win the game, and the Super Bowl.

Previous players:

#4 – Lawrence Vickers

#5 – Joel Klatt

#6 – Rodney Stewart

#7 – Mason Crosby

#8 – Nelson Spruce

#9 – Scotty McKnight

#10 – Jimmy Smith

#11 – Cody Hawkins

#12 – Hugh Charles

#13 – George Hypolite

#14 – Greg Henderson

#15 – David Bakhtiari


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