Nate Herbig leads for Jets offensive line


In May, the Jets quietly made a waiver request to a little-known offensive lineman named Nate Herbig, who had been released by the Eagles and was listed as an insurance backup.

Six games ago, Herbig was quietly inserted into the Jets’ starting lineup at right guard, after injuries forced them to revamp their first five.

That’s how Herbig, a 24-year-old Hawaiian, does things.


His impact for the Jets, however, was anything but.

Starting tackles Mekhi Becton and George Fant and starting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker were all lost for the season, but Herbig helped solidify a Jets line that has become a team strength.

The Jets have won five of six games since Herbig’s start. They rushed for 135 yards or more in four of those six games and protected quarterback Zach Wilson well. Along the way, Herbig has been right in the middle.

He delivered the lead blocks on both Jets touchdowns in their upset win over the Bills last Sunday.

Herbig’s tenacious play completely challenges the person he projects off the pitch, who is baby-faced, shy and docile.

Nate Herbig
Nate Herbig
Bill Kostrun/New York Post

Mention Herbig’s name to Jets players and coaches and it always brings a smile.

« We call him ‘Nasty Nate,’ because if you watch a movie, he’s always there trying to dump somebody, » Jets veteran Laken Tomlinson told The Post.

« Nate’s love for the game is more than anyone else’s, » Vera-Tucker, who suffered an elbow injury, told The Post. « I joke with him and say, ‘Don’t be too good or you might take my place.’

With Herbig playing so well and Vera-Tucker, who has started in three different positions this season, so versatile, it may be too late.

« He’s just all ball – he loves football, he’s kind of a do-it-all offensive lineman, and you can never, ever, ever get enough of these guys, » the offensive coordinator said. of the Jets, Mike LaFleur.

Herbig’s grinder mentality is a direct byproduct of his upbringing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where his father, Bruce, pushed him and his brothers to the point where fights constantly broke out in the environment. competitive.

Nate’s younger brother, Nick, is a junior All-American linebacker at Wisconsin. His older brother, Jake, is a UX and UI technology designer.

Nate Herbig (middle) with his brother Nick (right) and father Bruce (left).
Nate Herbig (middle) with his brother Nick (right) and father Bruce (left).
Courtesy of Bruce Herbig

Bruce Herbig, a retired high school counselor, spoke to The Post on Friday by phone from his home in Hawaii and described his boys as « ultra competitive, and I was there with them. »

« I never let them win anything, » he said. “They had to earn it. I still think they gained nothing from me. I do not like losing. I guess it trickled down to them and they took the ball and ran with it.

Nate told the Post that his dad « is one of my best friends, » adding, « Everything I do I try to make him proud. »

It’s a family affair, Nick looking at Nate the way they both look at their father.

« Honestly, it sometimes leaves me speechless watching my brother do his thing, play the game he loves, » Nick Herbig told the Post. “I know how hard it was for him, everything he went through undrafted and seeing the difficulty he had to go through and the constant stress he puts on himself and his body just to try to do it.

« He’s my role model. I have admired him all my life. »

Nick recalled that his dad was « super tough on Nate, and I think that really benefited him ».

« Nate needed a little push, » Bruce Herbig said. “He sometimes wanted to take the easy way out. You get what you put into things, and I wanted to make sure he understood that’s how it works.

Nate Herbig with his father and two brothers.
Nate Herbig with his father and two brothers.
Courtesy of Bruce Herbig

Bruce’s message took.

When Herbig came out of Stanford and was signed to the Eagles roster in 2019 by Joe Douglas, who is now the Jets’ general manager, he was an overweight kid who needed to get in shape.

That’s when he was picked up by Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, who has a detached barn at his home outside of Philadelphia outfitted with state-of-the-art practice equipment. technology, and a trainer named Gabe Rengel, a former Marine.

Eagles players and other South Jersey area players gather at the barn, practice together, eat together and hang out. It was there that Herbig met Brian Baldinger, the NFL Network’s movie dispatch guru and former NFL offensive lineman, who is also a frequent visitor to the barn.

Nate Herbig (65) in action against the Steelers on October 2, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.
Nate Herbig (65) in action against the Steelers on October 2, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh.
Getty Images

It was Baldinger, in fact, who facilitated Herbig’s signing with the Jets.

According to Baldinger, the Eagles wanted to halve Herbig’s salary and keep it. Herbig sought advice from Baldinger. Baldinger called Douglas to gauge his interest (he was interested) and told Herbig to have his agent call the Jets general manager.

« He’s had his money, he’s playing for a winning team, he’s playing good football, it’s all worked out for him, » Baldinger told the Post. « He just wanted this opportunity, and now he has the opportunity. »

Nate Herbig at Stanford with his mother Robyn
Nate Herbig at Stanford with his mother Robyn
Courtesy of Bruce Herbig

Bruce Herbig called his son a « sharp guy, almost like a math genius », adding: « I think it helps him with his blocking and angles. I think he understands offenses as well as anyone in the NFL — on the planet — with that math.

Bruce recalled a high school teacher from Nate’s once calling him and saying, « I think your son is cheating. »

« Well, what makes you think that? » Bruce asked.

« Because he didn’t write any of his formulas and got the answers right, » replied the professor.

“Nate does all his math in his head,” Bruce said.

Baldinger also marveled at Herbig’s physical ability.

“He has something in him,” he says. “He knows how to push himself physically. There is a standard inside him. I think he has a button he can press for sure to get the most out of himself. »

Nate Herbig during the Jets' mandatory minicamp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on June 15, 2022 in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Nate Herbig during the Jets’ mandatory minicamp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on June 15, 2022 in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Getty Images

Herbig, who is achingly humble, simply said he was « very grateful for the opportunity » the Jets gave him.

When asked what the departure meant to him, Herbig rebuffed all the praise that came his way uncomfortably.

« I have a lot of work to do, man, » he said. « Look at Alijah Vera-Tucker, he’s a special player. He played All-Pro [level] in three different positions this year. It’s downright amazing. I just watch this, I think, ‘Man, I gotta raise my game.’

« I want to play better for him. I don’t want to be the weak link on the line. »

Quietly, it was anything but.


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