When college football’s national championship is played Monday night in Atlanta, one of the Georgia players competing to bring the Bulldogs their first national title in 38 years will be Isaac Nauta.
When Nauta takes the field, across the way on Alabama’s sideline will be Thomas Fletcher and Bo Scarbrough.
The three college football players have this in common: they each completed their high school careers at Bradenton’s IMG Academy.
Nauta is Georgia’s starting tight end. He was a preseason All-SEC team selection, and he was recruited heavily prior to his senior season at IMG.
Nauta was also one of several four- and five-star prospects that played for IMG head coach Kevin Wright in his inaugural season coaching the Ascenders.
Nauta didn’t record a catch in Georgia’s double-overtime semifinal victory over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
However, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm targeted Nauta on a third down play in overtime that just evaded the Bulldogs’ tight end.
Nauta, though, contributed on Sony Michele’s game-winning touchdown run. He blocked along the edge that Michele ran around in the 54-48 victory over the Sooners.
That propelled Georgia into the national championship game, where the Bulldogs face SEC foe Alabama. That’s where Scarbrough and Fletcher play.
The two IMG Academy alums played for the Ascenders at different times.
Scarbrough was the driving force behind IMG’s offense in the inaugural season the Ascenders played varsity high school football.
Scarbrough played for former Florida State Heisman trophy winning quarterback Chris Weinke, who operated a run-heavy offense that featured Scarbrough plenty.
Since he’s transitioned into college football, Scarbrough delivered in last year’s national title game against Clemson before an injury knocked him from the game.
Battling injuries throughout his high school and college career, Scarbrough reached a zenith at the 2016 national championship game where he amassed 76 first-half rushing yards against Clemson.
This year, Scarbrough has given way to Damien Harris as Alabama’s No. 1 running back and only tallied 24 rushing yards on 12 carries against Clemson in the semifinal win.
Meanwhile, Fletcher is one of Alabama’s two long snappers and played last year at IMG Academy.
Nauta is in line for a bigger role Monday after one of Georgia’s three other tight ends was seen on crutches following the Rose Bowl victory, Dawg Nation reported.
Sophomore Charlie Woerner, who had three first-half catches against Oklahoma, was the one injured. Nauta is tied with Woerner for the most catches by a tight end on the team.
Nauta, though, leads Georgia tight ends with 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
While Georgia dealt with that injury, another former IMG Academy star was hobbled prior to the national semifinals.
Dylan Moses, who was last year’s Parade High School National Player of the Year, underwent surgery on a fractured foot at the start of bowl practices that kept him from playing in Alabama’s semifinal victory over Clemson.
Moses, though, has reportedly returned to practice. His status for Monday is unknown.
That’s also the case for Saivion Smith.
While at IMG Academy, Smith was a cornerback that nobody threw to. He transferred to Alabama after playing junior college football this past season, and theoretically could be available Monday. Smith originally went to LSU out of high school, but transferred to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College after playing one season with the Tigers.