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TE/FB Gabe Nabers: ‘No block, no rock’

I sat down with the promising UDFA to discuss his thoughts on signing with the Chargers, what he can bring to the offense, and his motto when he takes the field

Florida State Spring Game Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Chargers have long been associated with developing their undrafted players into successful young talent. So when the NFL draft comes and goes, followed by the whirlwind that is the UDFA signing period, it’s hard not to get overly excited about the group of players brought in by the Bolts.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of my personal favorite UDFAs, tight end/fullback Gabe Nabers out of Florida State.

In our roughly 20-minute conversation, I feel like I got to know Nabers well on top of getting a great sense of the type of player he is: versatile, self-less and committed.

When I asked questions pertaining to his own play on the field, he always found a way to give credit to someone else, no matter how big or small. My favorite part of the entire interview was getting to hear his motto that he recites to himself as he’s getting ready to bang heads with opposing defenders: “No block, no rock.”

It’s a motto that keeps him grounded in his efforts to see his teammates succeed. He’s reminding himself constantly that if he wants to see the ball, the dirty work has to come first.

I hope you all enjoy this conversation as much as I did, and by the end of it, you just might have yourself a new favorite Charger.

Michael: With everything going on right now, how are you staying physically and mentally ready for when everything returns to normal?

Gabe: I’m lucky enough to have a gym that I can still work out in. It’s where I’ve been training for a while now. It’s got turf and therapeutic stuff there so I can continue to keep my body right and stay in the best shape possible. I’m lifting and working out almost every day and then running routes every other day.

They’ve sent me the iPad with the playbook and so I’ve been getting familiar with the formations and cadences right now. Most of the rookie stuff doesn’t start until this weekend.

Michael: Did the Chargers contact you at all prior to the draft?

Gabe: Yeah, they talked to me following the pro day that my agency put on. After that we sent all of the film out to teams and they contacted me soon after. They mentioned the scouts that were there and how they liked what they saw from me.

Michael: What did that conversation sound like? Did they go into how they viewed you as a fit for this offense?

Gabe: They mentioned how they utilized a fullback before and how they want to be able to do that again. They liked how I’m more of a modern fullback that can make an impact as a blocker and be a threat in the passing game.

Michael: You mentioned you have the iPad with the playbook and everything on it. When you opened it up, did you notice any similarities between what you did at FSU and what you’ll be expected to do with the Chargers?

Gabe: Yeah, right away I noticed some similarities between what we used to do when Jimbo Fisher was the head coach. A lot of the pro style concepts like the I-Formation, some of the strong and weak side looks. I played under two different head coaches and three different offensive coordinators so I’ve kind’ve been through every offense you can think of. It’s going to be really nice being able to already understand a lot of what’s going on.

Michael: Out of the three offenses that you played in, which one would you say was your favorite?

Gabe: Ummmmm, that’s a tough question. I would probably have to say the pro-style offense we ran under Fisher. I played as a pure fullback until the new coaching staff came in and essentially said ‘we know you don’t really know exactly what’s going on but we think you could really help us here.’ and that sort’ve forced me to step up and learn something new (tight end). I mean, a lot of people would think I’d say my last year just because of the contributions I was able to make and all the different looks I got to go through which was Coach Briles offense. I can’t really put one finger on which offense I liked the most. I feel like they all helped mold me into the player I am today.

Michael: What would you say was your favorite play to run while at FSU?

Gabe: Honestly, if we’re running an Iso or inside zone with me coming across on the goal line or we were two or three yards out, and I knew based on how the defense was playing all day and I knew we had a 45 Zip with me zipping up inside on a linebacker, I’d know that Cam (Akers) is going to run right behind me. In those moments I’m just thinking ‘No excuses, it’s time to go. Just get in there.’ I really enjoyed those plays. There were a couple other plays in there that I always knew 100% I was getting the ball like pop passes and things of that nature.

Michael: They really loved you on those pop passes, didn’t they? They were all over your film.

Gabe: Yeah, I mean, I can attribute that to my teammates. They’re the reason why I was so successful last season because we had so many threats on offense that teams would have to account for them and then it would create opportunities for me to show what I can do when given the chance.

Michael: Out of all the teams and moments you were a part of at FSU, which one stands out the most and the one you will likely cherish for the rest of your life?

Gabe: I’ll really cherish the Orange Bowl season (2016) for the rest of my life. That season in general was just crazy. Coming out and beating Ole Miss in the opener and having all the hype to go on and win the Natty and then experiencing a couple bumps along the way and losing some games we shouldn’t have lost, then going on to win the last few games before making the Orange Bowl. Playing Michigan, in a game where a lot of people counted us out, and to win the way we did at the last second was insane. I’ll never forget that game. The people who were on the team at the time and the friendships I had on the team, a lot of those guys left to go play in the league. I think one of the reasons why I’m really excited for this transition is because a lot of those guys I played with my freshman year I’ll get to see a few of them coming up here soon.

Michael: That leads me into my next question, actually. You’re going to be joining your teammate Ryan Roberts who was also signed by the Chargers. What’s that going to be like for you?

Gabe: It means the world. Ryan is a great guy, he’s smart, and I’ve never seen anyone carry themselves to the professional standard that he does. He came into FSU not really knowing anyone but he earned a lot of people’s respect by the way that he worked and the way that he cared and I think that’s something very hard to come by. The way that our demographic is, a lot of people expect things to be given to them and that’s something I really liked about him and something we had in common. He doesn’t want to have anything given to him. He knew he was a likely candidate to earn the starting spot (right tackle) coming in, but he carried himself like he was the last guy on the roster. He works hard and that’s something I’ve always had in common with him and something I’ve always appreciated out of him as a teammate. So when you talk about us being on the same team again, it fires me up. I know him and I are going to be able to stay at the facility late at night and get those extra sessions in, work hard, and gauge each other’s success off of each other. We’ll be holding each other accountable because we want to see each other on the roster when it’s time for cuts.

Michael: Let me get your preference on something: Would you rather block someone into the dirt or take a pass for a long touchdown?

Gabe: In my opinion ... uhhhhh that’s a hard question. Alright, well, I’ve always considered myself someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, so I’m going to have to say put someone into the ground to help my team because, I mean, if I’m doing that then my other teammates are scoring.

Some way or another that’s going to come around and give me an opportunity to do the same. If I’m out here scoring touchdowns all the time, then eventually I’m going to get doubled-up and all these things- I feel like throughout my college career the reason I was able to have so much success in the passing game was because I was a threat in the blocking game. I honestly feel like a lot of defenses kind’ve counted me out in that regard and they didn’t necessarily look at me as someone who could get yards because I was a pretty effective blocker. So being able to block for my teammates is something that I know that- I mean, some coaches won’t even put you on the field if you can’t block. I know a lot of my friends growing up used to say ‘no block, no rock’ so I definitely think blocking someone into the ground is it. Lock it in. Final answer.

Michael: At what point in your career, whether it was always the goal or you realized it along the way, did you decide you wanted to play in the NFL?

Gabe: “ definitely think that when I first started football that it was a cliche thing. ‘Oh yeah, I want to play in the NFL. I want to play in college.’ I know a lot of people say that and I’ve had the pleasure of going through exactly what it takes to get to this point. Even though my path hasn’t been glamorous by any means, you know, I’m still an undrafted guy who has to go in and prove (myself). In my head, I’m not in the NFL yet. I’m still in the interview. There’s a lot of work to do.

But yeah, I’d say coming into college, I wasn’t a very highly-recruited guy. I didn’t go to any of those Nike combines. I had that blue-collar work-ethic and so coming into college and seeing a lot of those guys who were four and five star recruits, sort’ve feeling it out at the beginning I realized, ‘hey, I can play with these guys. I can beat a lot of these guys.’ So at that point, that’s when I think it finally clicked with me. I was like ‘hey, if I can do this at a high level here, and I really work hard and keep grinding it out and stay one step ahead of everyone, I could definitely play in the NFL one day.

Michael: To be honest, I think you’ve landed in such a good situation with the Chargers. In this time of change in offensive philosophy and different players coming and going, I just think there’s an opening here. The Chargers obviously brought in multiple fullbacks and they let Derek Watt go in free agency but I think they’re looking for a different style of player than what he was. I think they want someone who is going to do more than just line up in the I-Formation. So with that in mind, it’s tough not to see someone with your skill set fitting right in with what this team is looking to do in 2020.

Gabe: That’s what’s crazy about it. When you look at it on paper, like, when you look at what they’re asking for, they are looking for a Swiss Army knife-type of guy and that’s what I’ve always been categorized as my whole career. As a senior in high school I won the ‘Utility Player of the Year’ in the entire state and so that’s what I’ve always been.

When you look at that and what [the Chargers] are looking for, it sounds too good to be true. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt because people can get into their heads and I know with football at the highest level that nothing is promised. I’m making sure to keep my head down and just get after it. When I hit the ground running I don’t want to give them any reason to look at me and say ‘this guy isn’t who we thought he was.’ I want them to be bought-in to me because I’m going to be 100% bought-in to them.