Ricky Nattiel
No. 84, 81
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born: (1966-01-25) January 25, 1966 (age 58)
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
Height:5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight:180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school:Newberry (Newberry, Florida)
NFL draft:1987 / Round: 1 / Pick: 27
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:70
Games started:17
Receiving yards:1,972
Receiving touchdowns:8
Return yards:421
Player stats at PFR

Ricky Rennard Nattiel (/nɑːˈtl/ nah-TEEL;[2] born January 25, 1966), nicknamed "Ricky the Rocket", is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver for six seasons with the Denver Broncos in the National Football League (NFL) during the 1980s and 1990s. Nattiel played college football for the Florida Gators before playing professionally for the Broncos.

Early life

Nattiel was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1966.[3] He attended Newberry High School in nearby Newberry, Florida,[4] where he was the quarterback for the Newberry Panthers high school football team.[5] During his senior season in 1982, Nattiel led his Panthers to a 9–1 regular season and two state playoff victories,[6] before the Panthers lost in the Florida Class 2A state semifinal game.[7] Nattiel also played basketball and ran track for the Panthers, and was recognized as an all-county athlete in both.[8]

College career

Nattiel accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he was a wide receiver for coach Charley Pell and coach Galen Hall's Florida Gators football teams from 1983 to 1986.[9] Notwithstanding his high school background as a quarterback, he was recruited as a defensive back and possibly as a wide receiver, but necessity his freshman year in 1983 forced the coaches' choice.[10] When senior Gators receiver Dwayne Dixon was hobbled halfway through the season, Nattiel started in his place and established his own reputation as a future star receiver to be watched.[10] Nattiel was a key target of Gators quarterback Kerwin Bell during the 1984 and 1985 seasons, when the Gators posted identical 9–1–1 overall win–loss records and led the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with best-in-the-conference records of 5–0–1 and 5–1. Memorably, he dashed ninety-six yards on a touchdown pass from Bell in the Gators' 27–0 victory over the rival Georgia Bulldogs in 1984, contributing to his nickname, "Ricky the Rocket."[11] Nattiel finished his college career with 117 receptions for 2,086 yards and eighteen touchdowns; he also had 589 yards in punt returns.[9] He was a team captain, a first-team All-SEC selection and a second-team All-American in 1986, and received the Gators' Fergie Ferguson Award as the senior who most displayed "outstanding leadership, courage and character."[9]

Nattiel was recognized by the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 1984 and 1986.[9] He graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in public health in 1987, and he was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 1998.[12][13] In one of a series of articles written for The Gainesville Sun in 2006, the Sun sports editors recognized him as the No. 46 all-time greatest Gator of the first 100 years of Florida football.[14]

Professional career

The Denver Broncos chose Nattiel in the first round (27th overall pick) of the 1987 NFL Draft.[15] He played for the Broncos in six NFL seasons from 1987 to 1992,[16] including eight playoff games and two Super Bowls. His rookie season, he had 31 receptions for 630 yards, setting a franchise rookie record of 20.3 yards per catch.[17] His second year, he upped his receptions to 46, and was the Broncos primary punt returner for 972 all purpose yards. His numbers decreased after that. One of the highlights of his professional career was catching a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Elway against the Washington Redskins on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage in Super Bowl XXII.[18] Nattiel and fellow Broncos wide receivers Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson all played together from 1987 to 1992 and were nicknamed "The Three Amigos."[19] He finished his six-year NFL career with 121 receptions for 1,972 yards and eight touchdowns.[3]

Life after the NFL

Nattiel, who is Baptist,[20] was formerly the junior varsity coach and wide receivers coach of the Trinity Catholic High School Celtics football team in Ocala, Florida.[21] When former Celtics head coach Kerwin Bell resigned in 2007, Nattiel became the head coach of the Celtics for a single season, leading them to a 7–5 record and a berth in the Florida State 2B regional playoffs.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "Ricky Nattiel". Pro Football Archives. Retrieved June 30, 2024.
  2. ^ Denver Broncos 1989 Media Guide (pronunciations on page 119). Retrieved January 25, 2021
  3. ^ a b "Ricky Nattiel Stats, Height, Weight, Position, Draft, College". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  4. ^ databaseFootball.com, Players, Ricky Nattiel Archived February 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  5. ^ "Panthers' Nattiel Puts on Show, 28–0," The Gainesville Sun, p. 4D (November 20, 1982). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Mike Bianchi, "Newberry Does It To Hawthorne Again, 21–0," The Gainesville Sun, p. 3D (November 27, 2982). Retrieved June 22, 2010. Richard Gerber, "Newberry Moves On With 28–7 Win Over Father Lopez," The Gainesville Sun, p. 4D (December 4, 1982). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  7. ^ Richard Gerber, "Generous Newberry Absorbs 44–6 Loss," The Gainesville Sun, pp. 1D & 3D (December 11, 1982). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  8. ^ Mike Bianchi, "All-County Squad Honors Top Scorers," The Gainesville Sun, p. 3D (March 20, 1983). Retrieved June 22, 2010. "Track Stars Are Honored," The Gainesville Sun, p. 3B (May 19, 1983). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide Archived April 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 88, 96, 103, 124, 127, 143–145, 147–148, 149–150, 159, 184 (2011). Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Mike Bianchi, "Nattiel Is A Definite Plus For UF," The Gainesville Sun, pp. 1D & 3D (October 6, 1983). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  11. ^ Mark Schlabach, "Dawgs-Gators winner will have inside track to SEC East title," ESPN (October 30, 2008). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  12. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  13. ^ Pat Dooley, "Jones, Nattiel lead class into UF Hall," The Gainesville Sun, pp. 1C & 5C (April 3, 1998). Retrieved July 23, 2011
  14. ^ Robbie Andreu & Pat Dooley, "No. 46 Ricky Nattiel," The Gainesville Sun (July 19, 2006). Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  15. ^ "1987 NFL Draft Listing". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  16. ^ National Football League, Historical Players, Ricky Nattiel. Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  17. ^ As of 2017
  18. ^ Paul Zimmerman, "One Super Show!," Sports Illustrated (February 8, 1988). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  19. ^ John Mossman, "Denver's Three Amigos make a comeback with a Gringo sidekick," The Gainesville Sun, p. 2C (January 24, 1990). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  20. ^ Tammy Nattiel, "Top Ten Catholic Heroes of the Super Bowl," Catholic Online (January 30, 2008). Retrieved June 22, 2010.
  21. ^ a b Byron Saucer, "Nattiel resigns as Trinity coach; Brantley offers to take the job," Ocala Star-Banner (March 26, 2008). Retrieved June 22, 2010.