The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Football coaching staff reloads with hire of Donavon Nathaniel

Donavon Nathaniel comes to Lafayette by way of University of Wisconsin-Platteville with stops at Georgia State and Kansas. (Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Platteville)

After winning the Patriot League, the Leopards football team saw surprisingly little attrition with the exception of one staffing vacancy. To fill it, head coach John Troxell nabbed former Kansas graduate assistant Donavon Nathaniel as the new defensive line coach.

“Lafayette reminds me a lot of home in terms of where I went to school and where I played my ball,” Nathaniel said. “The college community within itself is a small close-knit community. It’s FCS and it’s Division I, but it still gives you that feel of everyone knows everybody.”

The Milwaukee native began his collegiate football career playing defensive end at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he spent four and a half years. During that time, he got his start in coaching with the women’s basketball team.

“My degree was in health and human performance and part of the graduation requirements was that you had to do an internship with group fitness instruction,” Nathaniel said. “So I did that with the women’s basketball team.”

Before the 2019 season, he returned to the football team staff as the defensive line coach and spent the next three years there. In 2022, he left his alma mater to be a graduate assistant at Georgia State under former USC head coach Clay Helton. Then in 2023, he moved to the Big 12 as a graduate assistant for the University of Kansas, helping the Jayhawks to their best season in over 15 years.

“In my personal life, I haven’t lived out in this area of the country, but I have an aunt who when she left Milwaukee, her first stop was Allentown,” Nathaniel said. “My parents used to bring us out here in the summer times and I do remember those times, driving, seeing the mountains and nature and how beautiful it is. Outside of football that was very attractive to me when I got the call about an opportunity here.”

Taking over for the popular Dante Wilkins who left for the defensive line coach job at FBS school University of New Mexico, Nathaniel has big shoes to fill.

“I’ve got a chance to meet with the entire D-line,” Nathaniel said. “My first order of business was to meet with each one of them individually. I’m big on relationships. It’s ‘we, not me.’ A lot of ‘us and not I.’ I had a chance to get to know them a little bit more in terms of why they came to Lafayette, why Lafayette is so special, why they play football and also what are their goals.”

“Having met with Coach [Nathaniel] already, he has a standard that he has conveyed to us that we need to meet,” senior defensive lineman Adam Port, who will be returning for another season next year, said. “I think that is going to be very helpful going forward.”

Nathaniel takes over a group that had an incredible amount of success last year, averaging over seven tackles for loss per game led by FCS freshman All-American defensive lineman Jaylon Joseph and Port.

“I truly believe in not recreating the wheel,” Nathaniel said. “If there is something that has been done here, something in the process that is obviously successful … I definitely want to keep sight of that.”

“A lot of these guys are pretty young and a lot of them got a chance to get meaningful playing time,” Nathaniel continued. “My main goal is to simply build off of the skill sets that they currently have.”

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Charlie Berman
Charlie Berman, Sports Editor

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