Reconnect with Ram - Dane Nussbaum

Meet GCA Alum and Class of 2021 graduate Dane Nussbaum. From student-athlete to student assistant at the University of Tennessee, Dane turned his dreams of a future football career into reality. 

We reached out to Dane to have him tell us a little more about his experience at GCA and life beyond Ram Nation. 

How long did you attend GCA?

I attended Grace Christian Academy for four years. I enrolled in August of 2017 and graduated in May of 2021.

Where are you attending college?

I am currently enrolled as a junior undergraduate studying Secondary Social Studies Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

What fills your time now – professionally?

My collegiate journey in football began in 2022 with the University of Tennessee Football program. As a defensive scout, I was responsible for evaluating talent in both Tennessee and Kentucky. As the 2022 season approached, I assumed a pivotal role as the Defensive Coordinator's recruiting and personnel assistant. In this role I recruited and scouted defensive back prospects nationwide for the remainder of the 2022 season. Building on a successful off-season, I eagerly embraced a new challenge in May of 2023, transitioning into my current role as a student assistant special teams coach. My responsibilities encompass a range of crucial tasks, primarily focusing on opponent scouting. This involves meticulously analyzing and dissecting special teams’ plays from our opponents' previous games, as well as creating the opponent depth chart and personnel sheets. During practice sessions and scrimmages, I chart the performance of our kickers, punters, and long snappers as well as assist with the scout team/practice squad. The data collected allows us to compile field percentage statistics that are analyzed through practice footage as a cohesive unit. On game days, my role extends to preparing comprehensive reports detailing our opponents' personnel and formations, while also closely monitoring the performance of our specialists and the opposing team's specialists. Additionally, I am responsible for collecting calls to facilitate our in-depth post-game breakdown analysis.

How did your academic experience at GCA guide you in your post-grad pursuits?

During my time at Grace Christian Academy, I truly learned how to be the best in every aspect of the classroom. Following my graduation, I can wholeheartedly say that I was best prepared for college through the educators and structure that GCA presents. The classroom model and interactions students have with teachers at Grace is un-matched. The constant support and communication students have access to within the administration best prepared me for higher education. One of the most influential aspects of Grace for me was the lesson structures being cohesive through different classes. What I mean by this is history classes, Bible classes, and English classes, building off one another in terms of essay structure, lesson plans, and expectations. Learning different ways to write essays in ways of expressing what I learned and applying those skills in other classes helped me the most in my transition from high school to college.

What was your favorite class you took at GCA and why?

When asked what my favorite class was during my time at Grace Christian Academy, I am faced with the hardship of choosing between many great educators and classes. While many of my teachers had long-lasting influences on my life, one class in particular was English Literature my junior and senior year, under Mrs. Misty Gouge. While English, originally, was not one of my favorite classes to take, Mrs. Gouge was extremely influential and was truly incredible at encouraging an environment of learning and communication. Her ability to make reading enjoyable was extremely beneficial for my collegiate journey. The lesson structure of various works of literature and lessons that encompassed these works were truly enjoyable for everyone. She created a culture that had students eager to read “between the lines” to really understand what the author was portraying in their work. She taught us how to meticulously analyze historical works and in turn project those themes in our own lives. Furthermore, this helped the students be best prepared for other classes such as history, Bible, and many more as we applied what we had learned in other settings.

Did you have any internship opportunities through Winterim that were influential and why?

While I did not pursue internship opportunities during the Winterim periods over three years, I was blessed with the opportunities presented through the foreign language departments. More specifically, through the Spanish multi-grade level international trips. During these three years, I was fortunate with the opportunity to further apply what I had been taught in my Spanish classes and learn more about various cultures, through visiting Costa Rica (2018), Mexico (2019), and Spain (2020). Not only did these trips further expand on what Ms. Hannah Jackson and Mrs. Kelsey Deslauriers had taught us, we were able to experience much more than a typical trip to another country. We were able to travel all over each of these countries, staying in various places over the 8-12 day trips. More specifically, we would travel via buses and stay at various hotels for one or two days throughout major cities in the country. While these trips were extremely fun and allowed the students, and chaperons, an opportunity to travel the world, the educational benefits exceed that of anything else. We were able to practice our Spanish speaking skills, emerge ourselves in new cultures, and experience lessons on economic differences and the country’s history. Given these blessings, I can wholeheartedly say that the opportunities Winterim provides for the students is un-matched in any other educational system I have seen.

What were you involved in extracurricularly?

While attending Grace, I was involved in a plethora of extracurricular activities. My freshman year, I was a member of the World Culture’s Club, led by Ms. Hannah Jackson, one of our Spanish teachers. In this setting, we had weekly meetings in which we would discuss a new country. These discussions would include not only historical and economical discussions but talks about their religion and how our faith can be related or shared. Further on, we would make home-made dishes that are native to the culture and bring them for our weekly meetings. Throughout my time I was also a member of the varsity football team. It is through sports where I truly learned how to be a better version of myself while continuing my walk with Christ as we created a strong culture of brotherhood within the team. Two of the most valuable aspects of Grace were the youth mentor program and access to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Weekly meetings at the school, led by representatives from the Knoxville FCA would encourage active discussions with the students and administrators where individuals were able to discuss their relationship with God. This closely relates to the Youth Mentorship program as upperclassmen were able to be given a lowerclassman as their mentee. This was extremely beneficial as I was able to not only advise my mentee on classroom styles and ways of learning but allowed for strong relationships to be built. We were able to lean and confide in one another when needed.

How did your extracurricular activities impact your GCA experience? And have they impacted you in post-grade life?

All of the extracurricular activities I took part in were because they were best for my own personal curiosities. Grace offers a wide variety of clubs, sports, and societies where almost everyone can find one that they are interested in. These have best prepared me for college as they encouraged me to be a part of my campus as I actively search for new clubs and societies. Like my time at Grace, these extracurricular activities had me engaged with my fellow classmates in my community. This transferred over almost completely to the University of Tennessee, where even at a big university, I can find the societies and clubs I am interested in as I have become more involved. This includes my induction as a member of the Christian Organization, The Cross, member of Smokies Cleanup (Campus Cleanup), the sports analytics club, Future Greek Leaders Society, and a brother of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity.

What advice do you have for someone applying to college?

When applying to college, I would advise students to enjoy the process. While almost everyone will tell you not to stress, at the end of the day, everyone does. It is important to understand that it is ok to feel pressured about the application process and acceptances. Simply the decisions needed to narrow the list down can be excruciating. However, these visits should be exciting and fun. The opportunity to tour various institutions close to home and far away will open you to so much more than you may think. Going on these tours with family and friends is one of the best things about college. The idea of going to a university is to explore what the world has to offer and to give you the proper skills needed to be successful in life. At the end of the day, you may find things were much different and less intriguing at some places as you may have thought. While on the other hand you may find new things you fell in love with. It is important to fall back on scripture and allow God to help you make these tough choices. A verse to fall back on is

Luke 12: 6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” God pays attention to every single detail about every person and being alive. God will always have a plan for you, remember to enjoy every experience you have and stay focused on what the institution can offer you and YOUR goals!