Moving the Chains with ... Illinois State wide receiver Austin Nagel

Illinois State wide receiver Austin Nagel said he ate ice cream every day in the summer growing up at his grandmother’s ice cream shop. (Photo by GoRedbirds.com)

In his first game of the spring football season, Illinois State junior wide receiver Austin Nagel posted a career-best 132 receiving yards for the Redbirds.

The Nagel name in his hometown of Lemont is synonymous with football as four cousins also played college football.

Along with catching footballs, Nagel enjoys exploring different restaurants, spending time with his four siblings and would like to challenge teammate John Ridgeway, a 325-pound defensive lineman to a race because he’s knows he can win.

And, Nagel really, really, really misses eating ice cream every day.

Learn more about Nagel in our Moving the Chains Q&A feature:

As an athlete, you have to stay in great shape. What food do you love that you can’t eat much of anymore?

Oh man. I try to limit the ice cream I eat, but it’s a little difficult. I used to eat a lot of sweets and desserts after dinner, but I’ve had to cut those out — especially ice cream.

My love for ice cream started when I was younger. My grandma had an ice cream shop, so I used to go there every day in the summer. She’s just like any other grandma. She would make sure we had our fair share of ice cream every day. It was crazy. I was spoiled in that sense.

What has been the most challenging part of the pandemic for you as a college athlete?

I’ve really had to watch where I go, who I associate with. You have to keep your circle small. You have to stay with athletes. If you’re going to do something, it’s always got to be with other athletes. You really have to watch where you go and who you hang around because if you test positive for the virus, your buddies on the team likely will be out for a little while. It really has been tough on all of us.

You have four siblings. Where do you stand in the family order?

The oldest is my brother Spencer. He also goes to Illinois State. We’ll both be graduating in December. That’s pretty cool to have him here.

Austin Nagel

I have a younger brother, Cameron, who is two grades younger than me. He plays baseball at Lake Land College (in Mattoon). I have two sisters in high school. Hannah is going to graduate this year, and she’s not sure where she’s going to go to college. We’re trying to get her to come to Illinois State, but she’s a little hesitant about following her two older brothers.

I have a younger sister, Abby, and she’s a sophomore.

What are the best and worst things about having four siblings?

I could tell you that real quick. (Laughs) I still share a room at home with my oldest brother. Privacy is very hard to come by in a house with five kids. I’d say the best thing is there’s never a dull moment. There’s always something going on. Someone’s going to be there to do something with. If my younger brother Cameron is there, I love tormenting him and making his life a little harder.

Who has the best uniform in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, not including Illinois State?

I’ll go with the (blue and gold) South Dakota State jerseys.

There have been about a dozen movies filmed in your hometown of Lemont. Have you ever been on a movie set growing up?

I honestly never have. I did hear that there have been movies shot in the downtown area. But I’ve never been around one.

Movies and TV shows have been a popular entertainment choice during the pandemic. What’s the best thing you’ve watched?

I recently watched this series on YouTube called “The Chosen.” A couple of my teammates put me onto it. It’s the story of Jesus Christ, but it’s not all Biblical. It brings in other elements. It’s a good show.

Lemont has produced numerous pro athletes, including your cousin and former NFL player Coby Fleener, along with pro baseball, hockey and cycling athletes. Why is the town a haven for great athletes?

I can’t remember my life without sports. We have a great youth program that all of my cousins and all the pro football players I know of played in. It’s called the Lemont Hornets. We all started young there and had really good coaches who motivated us more than any coaches ever have.

Growing up, which Lemont athletes did you look up to the most?

My (Nagel) cousins played through Lemont for years. When I was super young, I was watching Aaron, Brett and Connor. When I was getting into middle school, I would go watch my cousin Flynn’s games at Marist (High School). Watching them go through high school and play, they all really motivated me to play.

Your cousins Aaron, Brett and Flynn played football at Northwestern, while your cousin Connor at Truman State. Those teams both wear purple. How did you not choose a program that had purple team colors?

I never thought about it like that. (Laughs) Illinois State was my only full-ride scholarship offer. I took what I could get. But I’m happy I’m here.

What’s the best restaurant in Lemont that you wish was located in Bloomington-Normal?

I’ll have to go with Lemon Tree. Their butter garlic fries are stellar. I miss those.

What’s your favorite spot in Bloomington-Normal to hang out, other than Hancock Stadium?

I’m big on restaurants, and I love trying different foods. Pop-Up Chicken Shop in Bloomington is definitely the spot that I like to be when I get some time. They have a great chicken sandwich.

What’s the best Missouri Valley football stadium you’ve played in during your career?

Fargo, for sure. There’s nothing like playing (against North Dakota State) in Fargo. There’s nothing like all those crazy fans screaming when you’re on the field, then complete silence when (NDSU) is on offense. I’ve never seen anything like it.

ISU quarterback Bryce Jefferson said the ISU wide receiver corps has “crazy speed.” Who’s the fastest player on the roster?

I might get some heat for this one. This is a debate. (Senior cornerback) Jarrell Jackson.

If there’s one guy you could challenge to a race, who would it be?

A guy I think I could beat? (Laughs) It would probably be (325-pound defensive lineman) John Ridgeway. (Laughs)

Who is your most inspirational teammate?

My roommate (and fellow wide receiver) Taylor Grimes. He tore his ACL about a year-and-a-half ago, early in the 2019 season against Northern Arizona. He came back stronger and faster than ever. It was pretty crazy how good he came back.

He just keeps going. He always wants to get better. He always makes the guys around him better because he’s always trying to get better. It’s really good to be around him.

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