By Andy Warrener
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
The Gaither football team is anticipating a huge addition to its defensive line, even as the squad continues to rack up wins.
It comes in the form of 6-foot-2, 215-pound Dutch native Arkady Naus, who is a foreign exchange student at the North Hillsborough County school. The junior has one final paperwork hoop to jump through before he is eligible to suit up for the Cowboys (6-1).
Gaither second-year coach Jason Stokes said he may be cleared to play against Class 7A-District 7 rivals Chamberlain Oct. 26 or Tampa Bay Tech Nov. 2.
“In practice, (Naus) just destroys people,” Stokes said.
The Dutch wrecking ball plays a position where the Cowboys could use a boost, despite the defensive success in 2012.
“We’re pretty thin at defensive line, especially with size,” said Gaither defensive coordinator Brian DelValle.
DelValle is very excited to get Naus into the starting lineup.
“He is gonna allow us to rotate our defensive fronts a lot more, and complete some heavy fronts that we want to have in there,” DelValle said.
As of now, the Cowboys coaches have him lined up at defensive tackle. This should provide a big boost to senior defensive lineman Ernest Suttles.
Suttles already averages more than nine tackles per game and has 10 sacks this year, but has to man the middle of the line a lot during a game. His 6-4, 210-pound frame and speed are much more suited for defensive end. Getting Naus in at tackle should help his performance spike.
Senior nose tackle Thanasi “Pork Chop” Halkias should also benefit. He faces many double-teams and almost never gets a rest.
What it adds up to is a lot more stops at the line of scrimmage for the Gaither defense once the Dutchman enters the lineup. That’s a pretty scary prospect for a defense that is giving up just 11.7 points per game.
DelValle said Naus already had an understanding of the game when he joined the squad.
“I thought I would be teaching more technique, but he knows football,” DelValle said. “He had all the tools when he showed up.”
DelValle is not the only one that noticed.
“(Naus) has great get-off and knows how to use his strength to his benefit,” said Cowboys defensive line coach Greg Hamlin. “It was surprising to know how involved they (the Dutch) were with our game.”
Naus is no stranger to American football.
In Valkenburg, Holland, he played for a youth football league for a few years. Naus even worked with former players, who coached in Germany.
Valkenburg is just 15 miles north of the German border. Naus got quality instruction playing in an 11-man football league with an eight-game season. However, he admits the practice field at Gaither poses new challenges.
“In Holland, we practice two to three times a week,” Naus said. “Here, it’s every day, going harder with bigger, faster players.”
Naus had an interesting journey just getting to the United States. He set himself up in a foreign-exchange program, but opportunities kept falling through.
He had a family in Missouri that was going to take him in, but it fell through. He continued to wait on one of his coaches who was trying to set up the exchange.
“Eventually the no news turned into bad news,” Naus said.
Just when it looked as if it would never happen, Naus’ mother, Agneta, met a friend at a party and mentioned how her son was trying to get into an exchange program. The friend had a sister in the United States, Ramona Rivera.
Rivera decided to take Naus in and house him while he attended Gaither. It all happened in a flash.
“On Friday, I was taking class in Holland; on Tuesday I was taking classes at Gaither,” Naus said.
Now, Naus faces the waiting game again as his eligibility paperwork slogs on, keeping him from playing in games. He’s able to practice with the team, but he might only be eligible to play in the last few regular season games and potentially a playoff run.
“Game day is the worst because I know I’m not going to play,” Naus said.
Naus hopes to be able to participate in the exchange next year so he can play a full season with the Cowboys. His addition, even at the eleventh-hour, to this year’s squad will provide a huge boost for Gaither.