Elkhart's Nathan 'Napalm' Palmer steers his passions beyond the NFL

Currently a member of the Denver Broncos practice squad, Palmer has plans for his future.

Posted on April 16, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.

Here today. Gone tomorrow. Arguably, it's the harshest of many harsh realities in the NFL as well as life.

Nathan Palmer knew the landscape when he carved his path to become a professional football player.

One play and a few catalogued memories serve as humble reminders for the Elkhart native.

"You might walk in and we might be sitting down having lunch and as soon as we leave lunch and get ready to practice, you come back in and his locker is already cleaned out," said Palmer, who is hoping to keep his roster spot this summer with the defending AFC-champion Denver Broncos.

Then there was a play in the last preseason game of 2013 when Palmer was bidding to secure an Indianapolis Colts roster spot. Palmer's knee buckled after getting rolled by a Cleveland Browns defender late in the game.

Season done. Indianapolis done.

And even though Palmer subsequently landed in Miami briefly before becoming a late-season practice squad add by the Broncos, he knew he needed a plan.

Palmer chose his next source of passion — music.

"When I got hurt, I realized it can happen at any moment," Palmer said last week in Elkhart before the debut of his first EP recording, "R.I.P 2 my Heart" and his mini-concert on April 12.

"Here I was planning for opening day, telling my mom who's gonna get what tickets when I make the team, being positive, then one play. One play. That kind of opened my eyes.

"I thought, 'OK, let's give this music thing a shot.'"

The Broncos may keep Palmer or they may cut him. He may get more NFL auditions.

Then again, he might not.

Working diligently in the weight room, studying film until your eyes water and catching as many footballs as quarterbacks can throw still might not be enough.

Given the infamous "Not For Long'' scenario in the NFL, Palmer is determined not to be left behind.

A few conversations last year with David Thornton, the director of player engagement for the Colts, struck Palmer.

"I'd go sit in his office and talk one-on-one a lot and he'd ask me, 'What are you doing to increase yourself,''' Palmer said. "He'd say, 'You're not going to be able to play forever, Nate. Find something else you can do.'''

Thornton wasn't steering Palmer away from football, he was steering his mind toward the next phase of his young life.

"He'd say you might play one year, two years, three years, you might play four years and be done. You might only play one or two years and be done. You might play 10 years," Palmer said. "But he'd also say that when the game is done with you, you need to be ready to be done with the game."

When the game is done with you.

For hundreds of young NFL players, the game will casually discard them long before they're ready — or willing — to walk away.

Palmer says he's seen players doing it the right way.

Denver safety Quinton Carter opened a recording studio in Los Angeles, Linebacker Jeremy Mincey has his own record label. Eric Decker, who signed with the Jets in the offseason, has hinted about his own label, according to Palmer.

For players who simply don't see the bigger picture, he feels badly.

"There are guys who have a business outside for things after football," Palmer said, "but occasionally you have guys where football is all they have. If nothing else works out with football, they might be bad off.

"I've already seen that with a couple of guys."

Nathan Palmer won't allow himself to fall into that pit. He's taken his modest NFL earnings, invested and spent wisely.

While working with producer Darious Lyles in Chicago, Palmer still enjoys his Elkhart roots. He's putting the proceeds from his show last weekend toward the Napalm Football Camp, a kids program he started in 2013.

Aspirations without direction fade. The last of Palmer's six tracks on his EP is entitled, "Start over."

When the glamour of pro football loses its shine, "Napalm" won't be flaming out.

Nathan Palmer a smart young man who's forging his life and careers with refreshing thought.

Bill Beck is The Elkhart Truth sports editor. Contact him on Twitter @BillBeckTruth


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