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Elrod elite at receiver
Nate Elrod

It would’ve been easy for Nate Elrod to check out mentally. After 15 games of being the starting

quarterback for the Pioneers, which included earning an all-region honor in 2021, the Pioneers decided to make

a change to its offense last week. Elrod was replaced at quarterback, with the reins being handed over

to Alex van Vuuren.


Instead of sulking, Elrod was determined to forge a new path. He moved outside on offense and

instantly morphed into one of the most productive Pioneer receivers in the last decade.


In his first start at receiver last Friday against Coffee County, Elrod caught five passes for 108 yards,

becoming the first Pioneer receiver to top the century mark since McCall Turner did it three straight

times to finish the 2016 season.


Elrod may have also done something never before seen in 54 years of Pioneer football at Nunley

Stadium against the Red Raiders. He finished last week’s game with 100+ yards receiving, threw a

touchdown pass and also rushed for another as his versatility was pushed to the forefront of the Pioneer

offense.


It’s been an easy transition for Elrod to go from senior signal caller to star receiver. His motto has always

been putting the team first and that was his focus when the coaches decided to make a switch recently.

“I just want to do whatever is best to help the team,” said Elrod. “I like being outside at receiver – it’s

been great. I’m glad we have another quarterback who can air it out.”


Elrod’s performance at receiver, and the highlight-reel catches he’s already made, may have the coaches

wondering what would’ve happened if they switched the offense sooner. Elrod has already racked up a

team-high 11 catches for 209 yards at the position, which included getting some run at receiver late

against Siegel and Mt. Juliet.


His athletic ability has been unleashed as he’s making people miss in the open field, making toe-tap

catches near the sideline and going over defenders in the air to bring the ball down – often called

“Mossing” defenders in honor of Randy Moss’ ability to use his size at the position in his impressive NFL

career.


“Nate knows how to play the ball when it’s in the air as well as anybody I’ve coached,” said offensive

coordinator Donnie Harris. “He can adjust to the ball and give himself the best chance to make the play.

“He’s also very good at using his hands to catch the ball – not letting it get into his body – and he

understands how to work the route space to get open.”


Elrod’s best highlight came against Coffee County in the first quarter. Facing 3rd -and-10 early, van Vuuren

decided to go deep with Elrod running a backside post. The senior receiver went to the highest point,

grabbed the ball over the top of a defender and secured the catch as he crashed to the ground.

He would go on to make a spectacular catch in the second half as well, taking a ricochet off a Coffee

County defender out of midair for a 28-yard gain.


It’s unlikely Elrod will be able to chase down the top Pioneer receivers. Adrian Lusk has the record for

most receptions in a season, grabbing 61 passes in 2014, while Bill Rutledge’s 1,019 yards in 1989 is still

the only time a Pioneer receiver has topped 1,000 yards in a single season.


But, with a strong finish – and, hopefully, some playoff games – Elrod could break into the top 10 in

single season catches and yardage. To get into the top 10, Elrod would either need to catch 30 passes

(tying with Lee Carden’s 2013 mark) or reach 504 yards receiving (to match Malik Ladet’s 2014 season).

If he can stay outside – which is up in the air due to the pending availability of van Vuuren after an injury

at homecoming – there’s a chance Elrod etches his name in the record books.


Right now, he’s much more focused on helping the Pioneers earn their third straight 6A state playoff

bid. For Warren County to be playing in November, it’ll need plenty of big plays in upcoming games to

put points on the board.

It won’t be a hard to figure out how to do it anymore – just throw it to Elrod.