Nate Sullivan helped set an example and put the Palmyra-Eagle Panthers football team on a course to success in the future. Sullivan played on two 1-8 teams before a 4-5 record in his senior season with the Panthers in 2017.
Sullivan died in a car accident on September 18. He was 19.
“He was by far the strongest guy his senior year, and it showed our linemen this year how dominant they could be if they put the hours into the weight room in the offseason,” current senior quarterback Brandon Wilde said. “Just how he played on the field every single snap at 110 percent and played any position and did anything he could for the team to win.”
Sullvan had 118 total tackles in his time as a Panther with 51 of those solo tackles. He also had five sacks, five fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles along with a safety.
The team wore the 54 as a helmet decal to memorialize Sullivan at their game against Waterloo last week. Before Friday’s home game against Markesan, there will be a moment of silence for Sullivan.
In addition to the moment of silence, current P-E offensive lineman Tony Jrolf is switching his number to 60 from 54. Prior to the game on Friday, members of the Palmyra-Eagle team will present Sullivan’s parents with his jersey as a memorial.
Current Palmyra-Eagle linemen had the chance to play their freshman and sophomore years with Sullivan as a teammate in Nate Duester, Matt Herriges, Tony Jrolf, Casey Webber, Aidan Calderon and Jake Pronschinske.
Pronschinske says that he mentored a lot of them through his actions more than words.
“What I learned the most from him is to play more than 100 percent,” Pronschinske said. “He was so determined to be the hardest player out there, and to just be himself.”
Former P-E quarterback Hunter Griffiths grew up with Sullivan playing youth soccer and football with him and described him as a heck of a player and also says that the Palmyra-Eagle football class of 2018 set an example for the current players on the team.
“I believe the senior class of 2018 were great role models for the underclassmen,” Griffiths said. “It set a good attitude for them and I think that is why they are successful.”
Lonnie Garlock describes both Nate and his twin brother Connor as the brothers he never had. He says that for years that they bonded over trucks and cars or on the football field.
“Nate was the kind of guy, you knew you could count on as he gave advice when you needed and showed confidence and passion when playing football,” Garlock said. “He had a heart as big as the 54 he wore on his jersey, and will always go down in my mind as one of the hardest working, humble, and stand up guys I’ll ever know.”
Wilde credits Sullivan for helping turning the program around especially during a Week 9 win at home in 2017. He recalls a forced fumble in their last game that set up kicker Cade Fleischmann for a game-winning kick in a win over Montello/Princeton/Green Lake.
“That play and win got us to four wins on the season, and we haven’t looked back from that moment and have been improving ever since then,” Brandon Wilde said.
Head coach Kevin Wilde described Sullivan as a nice and hard-working athlete who came to practice every single day. Sullivan earned first team all-conference defensive tackle and earned Defensive Lineman of the Year. He told his seniors that year that for the program to turn around that they needed them especially Nate and his twin brother Connor to lead by example.
“The example that Nate and Connor set for these younger kids especially our linemen,” Kevin Wilde said. “I credit both of them to propelling us to where we are today with making the playoffs last year and being one win away from being playoff eligible.
“That was the example that regardless of our record and score, the kid came to practice every day and went all out to play hard every single day.”
Garlock added that there are things that the current Panthers can take from playing or being around both Sullivan brothers.
“I think what the guys that play today can take from the Sullivans is that hustle that goes further than on the field,” he said. “Day in and day out hard work was put in, and being a teammate and leader is what people will remember and cherish just like I will for my friend Nate.”