Coincidentally, the next day he got the grim news from an Ivy League school that it was no longer interested in recruiting him. (Later in the week the same tiling would happen with the only other Ivy League school he had a chance with.) Nate was having one helluva bad week.
On Tuesday night Nate decided to do something crazy. He wrote the conference president and asked him to remove the record from the books.
"[Out of] respect [for] my teammates, and past and present football players of the Central State Eight," Nate wrote, "it is my hope that this pass is omitted from any conference records."
Somewhere, a guy in a suit read that letter and fainted.
In Cedar Falls, Iowa, Griff Jurgens, the player who had set the record for Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood High in 1998, then lost it and now may get it back, was blown away. "If you see him," says Jurgens, "will you tell him I have the utmost respect for him?"
Better, Nate again has respect for himself. "Right away I felt better," he says. "I never cared about the record, anyway. I just wanted to win games." His father, Lou, an engineer, says, "We're sure proud of him."
So, apparently, are plenty of people across America. Nate is suddenly a national symbol for doing the right thing. In a bling-bling world it's bigger than MAN BITES DOG. It's CONSCIENCE BITES MAN. And when it's a kid righting adults' wrongs, it's an icy Gatorade bath for the soul.
Hey, you think ethics might suddenly be contagious? You think the New York Giants' Michael Strahan will return the record-setting sack he got with Brett Favre's Oscar-worthy dive? Will Connecticut basketball's Nykesha Sales protest the uncontested layup that was gift-wrapped so she could set her school scoring record? Will Colorado coach Bill McCartney give back the fifth-down win over Missouri in 1990 that led to his national title? Uh—no, no and hell, no.
Meanwhile, Southeast alumni and fans and the media in Springfield are clamoring for the aching head of Taylor, even though he had led the team to its best record ever (8-3) and the playoffs in 2002. It's gotten so nasty that Taylor has had to take time off from his job as an eighth-grade language arts and phys ed teacher.
"Eight seconds of my life, man, and I'm still paying for it," says Taylor, whose e-mail box has been jammed ever since. "People are saying we met behind the building at halftime and arranged this secret deal. Insane stuff. I was just trying to get Nate's name in the record books. I was trying to do something good, but no good came from it."