With two experienced seniors graduating and youth behind him, Nate Landman knew that he’d be required to fill a leadership role at linebacker this season for the Colorado football team.
The junior wasted no time in embracing the challenge.
“Yeah, I love it,” said Landman, who had to become a leader as a junior in high school, as well. “I thrive under that position and I like having that responsibility.
“I had my fair share of responsibility (last year), but now it’s all on me. I love that role I’ve been put into and hopefully I can thrive under that and hopefully I can get our guys going.”
Entering his third year with the Buffaloes, Landman spent his first two seasons learning under fellow inside linebacker Rick Gamboa, a four-year starter and one of the all-time leading tacklers in CU history. He also leaned a bit on Drew Lewis, a two-year starter.
While playing next to Gamboa last year, Landman became a star of the Buffs’ defense. He finished with 123 tackles, four sacks, 13 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Now, Landman is not only one of the team’s best players, but he’s leading a group of inside linebackers that has almost no game experience at CU.
“I wake up and I come to football and I know it’s my team, my defense,” said Landman, who has been a team leader during player-run practices this summer. “That gets me excited and I’m excited to play out there with those guys. I played under Rick and saw what kind of leadership it takes to have a great team on the field and a winning team. Hopefully I can build upon what they’ve taught me and bring my own edge to it and get this team going.”
While he is experienced now, Landman has had to learn along with his teammates this offseason. New head coach Mel Tucker and defensive coordinator Tyson Summers are installing a new defense with new terminology.
“It’s a lot more verbiage and a lot more categorization of defenses,” Landman said. “Definitely (more study than in the past). It’s more of a mind defense, rather than just get out there and play. We want to look to run all of those plays (in the playbook) and be a versatile defense.”
Leading that versatile defense will be Landman, who has earned several preseason honors, including being named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, which goes to the best defensive player in the country. Landman doesn’t pay much attention to those accolades, though.
“My dad is a huge football fan and a fan of me, so he’s always looking at that stuff,” he said. “To me, that stuff doesn’t really matter. It’s what you do on the field. Paper is paper. It’s exciting to be recognized for the hard work, but it’s not that important to me.”
Most important to Landman is helping the Buffs play well on defense and win games.
Defensively, the Buffs are loaded with question marks. Landman is one of only four returning starters and CU is lacking experience not only at inside linebacker, but in the secondary and the defensive line. Those unknowns are part of why the Buffs are projected for another last-place finish in the Pac-12 South, but Landman believes in CU’s defense.
“I see potential and a lot of raw talent,” Landman said of the Buffs’ defense. “Everyone here has the physical talent to be a great player. That’s why they’re recruited here. I think it’s just the mental game that’s the hardest part. When they can get that, I think we’re going to have a great defense.”
As far as Landman is concerned, it’s partially his job to help his teammates get the mental part of the game down so the Buffs can have a winning season and reach a bowl game for the first time since 2016.
“I didn’t come to Colorado to lose games,” he said. “I came here to win. I’ve got friends in the Pac-12 that I’m competing with and it’s a great rivalry, but I came here to win games. We’re low in people’s minds and we can only go up. That’s why I chose Colorado because I saw the potential. It’s about the 11 guys on the field and I think we have the 11 to make a good run at it this year.”