The Washington Commanders have added another center to their offensive line by signing Nick Gates. Here are five things you need to know about one of the newest additions to the Commanders' roster.
1. He persevered through seven surgeries.
There was a time when Gates' future in football was murky at best. Gates, who had established himself as the Giants' starting center in 2020, suffered a season-ending leg injury during their Week 2 primetime game against Washington in 2021. That started a 410-day journey that Gates was not always sure he would complete.
"There were some points where I thought I was going to retire," Gates said during his introductory press conference.
Gates had broken his tibia and fibula in his left leg – orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. David Helfet called it a "high energy injury" because the leg was broken in several places – and within 12 hours, he underwent surgery to have his leg realigned. But that was not the end of it; he had to get surgery again because of swelling in his leg. The surgery required the incision to remain open while the swelling went down, and Gates' days after that were filled with more surgeries and eventually a skin graft to cover the wound.
Almost six months later, Gates had to deal with another surgery for an infection in his tibia that involved doctors taking out the hardware keeping his leg together. After that, Gates started to see more progress. He went from walking to running, and from that point, he started running agility drills.
Gates started the 2022 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but he was activated on Oct. 26. He ran out of the tunnel with his teammates for a road game against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 30, and he cleared the way for Saquon Barkley on a one-yard touchdown.
"I get the chills just thinking about it," Gates said.
You can see more on Gates' road to recovery on the Giants' YouTube channel, HERE.
2. He had a strong career at Nebraska.
Prior to joining the NFL as an undrafted free agent, Gates spent his college career at the University of Nebraska, and the Las Vegas native was a mainstay on the Huskers' offensive line.
Gates earned the job as Nebraska's starting right tackle as a redshirt freshman, and over the course of three seasons, he was one of the most consistent players for the offense with 35 starts, 25 of which were at left tackle. That streak was the longest by a Huskers left tackle since 2001.
Gates got a slew of recognition for his performance at Nebraska. He received Big Ten All-Freshman honors from ESPN, and he was an Honorable Mention and Third Team All-Big Ten selection during his last two seasons as a starter.
3. He gives back to the community.
Gates did not just help the Huskers' offense during his time at Nebraska; he also made a strong impact in the community.
Gates received two honors during his time at Nebraska for his dedication to citizenship in the state. The first was the brook Berringer Citizenship Team, which recognizes players on Nebraska's campus who have completed six or more service projects during the school year. Gates was one of less than 100 Nebraska students selected in 2016 and 2017.
The second was the Tom Osbourne Citizenship Team, which was created to recognize the community efforts of Nebraska student athletes. Nebraska student athletes must complete at least six community service/leadership projects in the school year.
That dedication continued into his professional career, as he chose to support the Court Appointed Social Advocates (CASA), which advocates for neglected and abused children.
4. He has experience playing multiple spots on the offensive line.
Washington likes to bring in offensive linemen who can play at multiple positions, and Gates easily fits that description.
Gates' snap count dramatically favors the center position, but over the last four seasons, he has played at every spot on the offensive line except for left tackle. As a rookie, Gates played at right guard as well as right tackle, and while he was mostly a reserve player, his grades in overall offense (77), run-blocking (75.9) and pass-blocking (71.5) were the best of his career.
It took some time for Gates to get reacclimated to playing in games during the 2022 after recovering from his injury, but there were moments that showed he was making progress. He played left guard and center in the final 10 games of the season, and both of his best grades in pass-blocking (81.7 and 80.7) came as the Giants' starting left guard.
5. He loves playing center.
Gates will play wherever Washington needs him, but he signed with Washington under the belief that he will mostly be playing center. That suits him just fine, because that is where Gates feels most comfortable.
There's a reason for that, too: Gates likes being the one in charge.
"I like being in control of everything, making all the calls and telling everyone what to do," Gates said. "It holds me accountable just because you gotta know everything, and you gotta make sure everybody's on the same page."
The Commanders needed help on the entire offensive line last season, but that was most clear at center. The team believes it is clear that position is a need, and they began the offseason with a plan to upgrade the position.
Based on how the position has fared the last two seasons, there is a good chance Washington will need Gates at some point in 2023. He might not be the starter, but having someone with starting experience is a solid backup plan.