Cathedral Quarterback Nathan McCahill Named City Player of the Year
Cathedral High School’s football program had a banner season – a near-perfect season in fact, with a 9-1 record and their only loss to Class 6A state champion Center Grove. They had a ranking of number one going into their Class 5A state championship victory over Zionsville Community High School. This was their thirteenth state title win, and their quarterback, Senior Nathan McCahill was named City Player of the Year.
While football is very much a team sport, a quarterback’s leadership style and chemistry with a team is as essential as individual talent level. These qualities were present from the start of McCahill’s career, with Cathedral preparing him to take the nationally ranked Irish team to the state title. In his first year as quarterback he clearly brought talent to the role, but he also demonstrated a strong work ethic along with his philosophy and understanding that there is no “I” in team. This is how he rallied a team through an uncertain season, the devastation of losing a teammate, and ultimately to a success year.
For head coach Bill Peebles, there was no doubt who they believed would be the quarterback.
“We knew going into the 2020 season that Nate was going to be our guy,” he says. “He pushed Orin Edwards [the 2019 Irish quarterback]. He was a really good player but Orin was a senior and just a little bit better at the time. To say that we thought Nathan would do what he did, which was to be a Mr. Football candidate and to break the records that he did, that was a surprise. His leadership ability at quarterback was not surprising.”
Freshman coach Howie Fogel saw something special in McCahill right away.
“What you see is what you get,” Fogel says. “Since Nate first arrived on campus he has always had a mindset of, “It’s about the team, not me.’”
Each quarterback has his own way of leading his team, and McCahill is no exception.
“I was confident that we had the chemistry and connection with my classmates to lead the team,” he says. “We built a lot of confidence against some pretty stiff competition. I felt I had earned their trust.”
The cornerstone of his success was earning the respect and trust of his teammates.
“Nate would help out the inside linebackers by staying after practice and throwing balls to us, to improve our hands and footwork,” says junior Jack Goheen.
Fogel recalls a story about McCahill from his freshman year, when the team faced Roncalli High School.
“It was a tight game and Nate made some plays at the end to help lead us to a quality win over a pretty good team,” Fogel says. “After the game, we were loading the bus and I saw him off in the distance talking to a Roncalli player who was upset about losing. When he walked back to the bus and I asked him what was up, he said, “Just talking with an old friend about the game.”
McCahill says he and his teammates knew they were ready for a state title run immediately after a game against New Palestine High School in 2019. Losing Mario McCullough to gun violence rocked the team, and became the rallying cry for their favorite player’s life not to be lost in vain. Then COVID happened.
“We would hear things at practice and on social media, and always wondered if the season was going to be canceled,” McCahill says. “We decided that we were going to give our best effort because [any] practice might be our last.”
Leading through uncertainty with determination and drive is the hallmark of McCahill’s leadership.
“I’ve been confident since freshman year that Nate was a special player,” says Camden Jordan, senior wide receiver. “He finally got his opportunity to shine bright and did just that. Many people may be surprised, but I always knew what he was capable of.”
McCahill is wise beyond his years. He understands that when your teammates know that you genuinely care about them, they will do whatever it takes, because that is what teams that achieve excellence do. This is what McCahill demonstrated consistently through his actions, rallying his teammates to do more than even they believed was possible on the field.
“As good a quarterback as he was, he is a better person – he truly is a better person than a football player, and he is a great football player,” Peebles says.