By Cassidy Thornburg
“Let’s go, Gerze,” Nate Gerze yelled to his younger sister Audrey Gerze as she jumped up to spike the ball during one of her volleyball matches at King Arena.
“I try to be super loud and be an embarrassing brother. It’s fun to see her do well. I’m so proud of her, how hard she works.” Nate, who plays linebacker for the Wheaton football team, said that despite his busy schedule, he tries to make it to as many volleyball games as he can.
“It really means a lot to me, and he knows that,” Audrey said. “I don’t usually hear him in the stands, but I don’t doubt that he cheers for me. He will send photos of my games in our family group chat, too.”
Nate showing up for his sister’s games is just one way he feels he can show Audrey that he loves her, something he feels like he didn’t do enough of before coming to Wheaton.
“I was not the best big brother in high school and we both know it,” Nate said. “I’m so thankful that the Lord gave me a second chance to be that brother that I wanted to be. I was still protective when I was in high school, but letting her know now that I love her, care about her and am proud of her makes a big difference.”
Audrey can tell the difference, too. “Back when Nate and I were in high school we weren’t really friends,” she said. “He would usually just greet me in the hallways, which was nice, but now he will ask me about my day and there are opportunities to talk about our faith and what we struggle with.”
Nate opened up about the life he had been living before coming to Wheaton. “I was living a life that didn’t resemble anything that Wheaton football was or what these guys were doing,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be like that, and I knew the Lord had created a path for me to do that, to become a godly man. I decided to come here and kind of took a leap of faith.”
That “leap of faith” drastically changed the course of Nate’s life and impacted Audrey’s.
“If you had spoken to Audrey when I first graduated high school, she wouldn’t have wanted to go to the same college as me,” Nate said. “But during the next two years, Wheaton had an impact on me — Jesus kind of grabbed hold of my heart — she saw that and wanted it, too.”
“I knew I wanted to play volleyball, so I visited a lot of schools outside of Wheaton,” Audrey said. “At the same time, I saw how Nate was being transformed for the better after going to Wheaton for a couple of years. After visiting the campus, I knew I wanted to go to Wheaton.”
Head Volleyball Coach Stephanie Schmidt recruited Audrey to play volleyball at Wheaton, and in Audrey’s two seasons Schmidt has seen what it means to Audrey to have Nate at the same school.
“She loves being at the same college as him, and she likes getting to see him play. I bump into him every once in a while in the hallway. He’s always stopping to chat about volleyball.”
Nate and Audrey share more than just the same college and sports season. They are both Young Life leaders at high schools in the area, serving at Naperville North and Saint Charles respectively. Young Life has a special place in Audrey and Nate’s hearts because they both attended the club in high school.
“My parents met as college leaders at a Young Life summer camp called Castaway,” Nate said. “I went to Young Life in high school, and it had a really big impact on me. Now as a college leader myself, I feel like the Lord has given me the opportunity to be the person encouraging and disciplining guys who are going through the same things I did when I was in high school.”
Audrey is also grateful for Young Life. “I had amazing Young Life leaders all throughout middle school and high school,” she said. “I wanted to lead middle schoolers while I was still in high school but didn’t have the time because of volleyball, so it’s awesome to be doing something I have been looking forward to for the past six years.”
Audrey and Nate have a huge impact in the surrounding community of Wheaton through developing relationships with high schoolers and pointing others to a life with Christ.
Now you know, when you see a loud, 6’2” linebacker yelling during a volleyball match in King Arena at number 11 or a tall volleyball player in the stands at McCully Stadium cheering on No. 33, they’re the Gerze siblings.