A local teen, Nate Schuster, has been honored by Lookout Mountain area FCA director, Greg Spradlin. An award was created and presented at the FCA spring banquet in Nate’s honor to recognize his courage in a time of adversity.

At the youthful age of 15, Nate Schuster is walking in his late father’s footsteps.

The Chattooga County High School freshman moved to Summerville, Ga., before the 2006-2007 school year when his father, Eric Schuster, accepted a job as assistant football coach and teacher at the school.

Just over a year later, Nate’s father was dead from a fast-moving cancer, and his nearest relative — his mother, Tracie Garrett — was in Virginia. It would have been easy for him to pick up and leave the Northwest Georgia town.

“I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “All my friends were here, my mom didn’t go to church at the time, and I wanted to keep going to church.”

Today, with the first anniversary of his father’s death looming Monday, Nate lives with one of his best friend’s family, is a member of the football team his father once helped coach and is involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization in which his dad was active.

For his courage, Lookout Mountain FCA area director Greg Spradlin named a new award given at the chapter’s spring banquet for the teenager.

“I visibly saw his bravery and determination,” he said, “but not so much that he wanted to do things on his own. … He felt God had brought him to Summerville for a reason and a purpose, and God wasn’t finished using him there.”

When the Schusters moved from the Atlanta area to Summerville, where his father desired “a slower lifestyle and a smaller school,” according to Mr. Spradlin, Nate enrolled as a seventh grader at Menlo School.

There, he was quarterback on the football team, point guard on the basketball team and a top pitcher for the baseball team.

Toward the end of the school year, Mr. Schuster started having abdominal pains. When he went to the doctor, he learned he had multiple tumors that were beyond surgery. Although he endured chemotherapy and radiation, he died Aug. 25, 2007.

During his father’s hospitalizations, Nate stayed with Paula and Scott Buice, whose son, Lance, was one of his best friends. Mrs. Buice was both his youth group leader at Summerville First Baptist Church and a math coach at Menlo School.

When Mr. Schuster died, he requested to stay with them through his senior year. But his mother, who was divorced from his father and lived in Virginia with his two half sisters, had a different idea.

“She really wanted me to come back and live with her,” Nate said.

With the Summerville family’s ascent, he finally convinced his mother and was allowed to remain.

“It feels more like a hometown,” Nate said of Summerville. “Everybody knows everybody.”

Mrs. Buice said the Schusters had moved around quite a bit before coming to Chattooga County.

“I think he just found a group of people he became very involved with and attached to,” she said. “It’s just that small-town environment. He was from larger areas prior to coming here. At first, I think he thought (Summerville) was nothing. But he grew to love it.”

During the 2007-2008 school year, instead of retreating into a shell, Nate remained active in sports, and, became a part of the leadership team on the FCA huddle group that Mrs. Buice helped start.

“She and I met,” Mr. Spradlin said, “and it evolved, and we did create the new huddle. Nate and her son become a part of the leadership team.”

As the spring banquet approached, the FCA area director wanted to create an award to honor athletes who exemplify bravery and courage, finish school and overcome adversity.

“I thought, who better than one of their peers?” Mr. Spradlin said, thinking of Nate. “Without the support of family, his inner strength comes from God. His dad and others have nurtured him and brought that out against all obstacles.”

The first winner of the Nathan Schuster Courage Award was Danny Garcia, who battled back from cancer to help lead the LaFayette High School soccer team to its first region soccer championship.

Nate, for his part, felt he had exhibited some courage over the year because he “went through a hard time.”

Mrs. Buice said her family first got to know the teenager through his father, who was her older son Tyler’s football coach. Then he and Lance, who are a day apart in age, became friends.

“He has seemed to find himself here,” she said. “He’s a blessing. He’s very devout in his faith and to me a very strong kid. He fits perfect with (my) boys. They all have a great relationship. We’re fortunate to have him as part of the community."

Article courtsey of the Chattanooga Times Free Press by Clint Cooper