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01/05/2022 11:00 PM

Dombrowski Dedicates Himself to the Game of Football

Nate Dombrowski battled through injuries to become a varsity starter for the Yellowjackets as a senior. Photo courtesy of Alex Dombrowski

Before he started playing football, East Haven’s Nate Dombrowski says his mom had to practically throw him on the field. But once he got there, he realized how much he enjoyed football and worked to become a starting varsity running back for the Yellowjackets as a senior.

Nate started playing flag football in the 4th grade for East Haven’s recreational league. He grew up watching his younger brother Alex play. He remembers him and his mom Helene watching Alex play and her trying to convince him to give it a try. Nate eventually did and says that he now realizes how much football has changed his life.

“I was hesitant at first, my mom kind of pushed me into it. I would watch my brother practice and my mom said I should do it sometime. She threw me on the field almost.” Nate says. “I started playing and thought it was fun. It was the best thing to happen in my life.”

When Nate was in 5th grade, he tore a ligament in his knee and was forced to miss the season. He started playing tackle football for the town in 6th grade, but tore a ligament in his other knee when he was in 7th grade and was again forced to miss a year of football.

In 8th grade, Nate said his passion for football truly blossomed. He thought about what he wanted to do once he got to high school. Despite suffering two serious injuries, he says he knew football would help him battle back and become the person he wanted to be.

“I was going through a phase of figuring out what I wanted to do in life, how should I go into high school,” Nate says. “Football kept me through it all, even if I didn’t want to do it. Life was hard at the time, football helped me become who I am today. It showed me that football will always be there in my life.”

As a freshman Nate joined the Yellowjackets but says he didn’t see much playing time. He would get in on kickoffs/punts for the JV team, but not much more. He admits he wasn’t truly dedicated to the sport, but still went to every practice and every game.

The summer before his sophomore year is when Nate says he truly fell in love with football. He was training three times a day, every day. He wanted to earn playing time and prove he belonged on the field. During that sophomore year, Nate transitioned from wide receiver to running back, the position he played throughout his career with the Easties.

With the position change and a new mindset, Nate says he was ready to compete as a sophomore.

“After I learned that football was for me, I wanted to prove myself to anyone,” Nate says. “I worked extremely hard throughout that season. I came in ready to play, I did really well. It was one of my best seasons.”

While football was shut down throughout the State of Connecticut during Nate’s junior season due to COVID-19, he says he still put in the work to prepare for a breakout senior season. However, in the summer prior to that senior season, Nate again had injury troubles that slowed him down.

He had a broken pinkie toe, a bruised metatarsal in his left foot, tendinitis in his shoulder, and a sprained ankle. He wasn’t able to workout for much of the summer and had to ease back into playing come fall.

But despite those injuries, Nate says he was determined to get back to the field.

“During my sophomore and junior year, I had a mindset of, ‘Give it my all,’” Nate says. “Watching other people suffer pushed me more. I wanted to help them at the same time.”

Now a full-time running back, Nate says he felt like he found the position where he truly belonged. He says it opened his eyes as to what he could do. Furthermore, as a senior, he began seeing playing time on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker and cornerback.

At linebacker, Nate says he loved the physical contact. At cornerback, he says he loved being able to shut down other team’s receivers.

During Nate’s senior season, due to injuries and quarantines throughout the team, Nate got to share the field with his brother Alex for two games. Alex was a freshman quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back for the Yellowjackets during Nate’s senior year.

While their time on the field together was brief, Nate says playing alongside his brother for East Haven is a memory he will never forget.

“He worked just as hard as me, if not harder. Me and him had the same mindset going in. We just connected instantly. We always had that connection,” Nate says. “It allowed us to do more things on the field. We didn’t always have all of our starting players. Alex and I did what we had to do in that moment. What we did will really stick with me forever.”

East Haven Head Coach Scott Benoit said he was impressed with Nate’s ability to battle back from injuries and become a major contributor for the Yellowjackets. He added that Nate was always willing to change positions and do what he can to help the team succeed.

“Nate is a very hardworking player,” Benoit said. “He overcame numerous injuries and played multiple positions for us. He is a great example for our younger players.

After graduation, Nate says he hopes to continue playing football at the college level. Despite the bumps and bruises he may have picked up along the way, Nate says that football taught him more about what it means to be an athlete rather than just the Xs and Os.

“Being a football player is not just about playing football,” Nate says. “It’s everything else that comes with it. The downs, the ups. The early mornings, the late nights. The up studying into whatever time until practice. The dedication itself is what makes you become the player and the team that you are.”