How Nate Williams Spent His Summer Feeding Hungry NFL Players

They eat more than the average human — a staggering amount. JWU Charlotte Culinary Nutrition major Nate Williams '22 knew he had his work cut out for him when he described “a huge, monstrous” customer who placed an order for 25 wings, three burgers and one chicken patty. For his lunch! Williams says there were plenty more orders just like that during his summer training camp internship with the NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars — players who needed a lot of fuel for their strenuous workouts.

It took Williams time to acclimate to the pace: “I was overwhelmed at first! I was searing 150 to 250 pieces of salmon at once. My day would start at 6 or 7am, and end about 10 hours later. I was feeding players, coaches, staff, security, trainers, and assistants — about 250 people a day.”

Nate Williams '25 at his internship in Jacksonville, Florida.For someone studying nutrition, Williams says it made him wince watching some of the players devour burger upon burger and piles of wings.

So, during his three-month internship at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, he drew on his JWU education and took on the challenge of providing nutritionally-sound food for the players, including those linemen and defensive tackles who weigh as much as 300 pounds and require nearly 9,000 calories a day to maintain their weight. While the so-called “Cardiac Jags” earned their nickname for making comeback wins and winning nail-biters, Williams wanted to make sure that was the ONLY reason for the team’s nickname.

“I created a half dozen vegan recipes and offered more of a variety of vegetables,” Williams explained. “I fortified the pasta sauces with spinach, kale, and anything else to make the food more nutritionally dense and healthier without affecting the flavor too much. I noticed when talking to the players that most of them were under the impression they would just burn off the food they ate in the gym or on the field. They can burn off calories, but they can’t burn off hypertension, heart disease, and cancer.”

“I am grateful for every staff member, culinary instructor, and mentor that helped me prepare for this opportunity.”

Before joining JWU, Williams served as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy where he helped treat chronic diseases and broken bones; provided x-rays and immunizations; and treated as many as 50 patients a day. Since then, he has dedicated his life to channeling his prior medical training into a new vision of how to feed people for wellness.

“I created vegetable medleys, vegan mac and cheese, veggie fried rice, vegan chili, and mushroom shawarma wraps. I didn’t get to make all these recipes there, but I got to make a few, and I submitted a document to the registered dietician to be able to later reference in case they picked up a vegan/vegetarian player.”

Nate Williams in the JWU Charlotte culinary lab. One of Williams’ favorite College of Food Innovation & Technology teachers, Associate Professor Daina Soto, explains his success: “Our Culinary Nutrition bachelor’s degree prepares students for a growing range of in-demand career opportunities. Williams’ experience is a testimony to how this degree can give students the tools to lead in all aspects of food, health, and social responsibility. I can see how both Applied Nutrition and Vegetarian Cuisine helped him during his internship. Both classes empower students to create dishes, through guided experimentation, using their foundational knowledge to make nutritious food taste great. It really is a mindset. Recently he shared with his classmates that he desires to create ‘beautiful nutrition-packed dishes that change the way people view healthy food,’ and he is obviously off to a great start.”

“I created a half dozen vegan recipes and offered more of a variety of vegetables.”

That “great start,” Williams recalls, included making a difference, and an impression, each day. “Every class I took at JWU prepared me to complete the tasks of the internship. I honed my time management and organizational skills, took advantage of networking, and enjoyed the camaraderie and teamwork of working side-by-side with my small chef-team of five.” (That team also included a JWU Providence intern, Peter Reynolds.)

“It was back-breaking work, I’m not gonna lie,” says Williams. “But what a confidence booster! And I tried to make a professional impact on those around me by creating a positive work environment, teaching various techniques learned at JWU, and taking pride in the food that was sent out every day. I wanted them to see my passion and drive. I am grateful for every staff member, culinary instructor, and mentor that helped me prepare for this opportunity.”

JWU Charlotte Academic & Career Excellence Advisor Jodi Wood suggested Williams for the internship: “With his attention to detail, passion for his field, and the ability to work through any hurdles with a professional and positive attitude, he was a great candidate for the opportunity with the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Williams was offered a job on the spot but says his education comes first, as well as getting his food truck concept, Nate’s Kreation Kitchen, licensed and permitted. He knows eating healthy is trending, so he’s anxious to share his Asian and Latin-inspired creations — just not necessarily in the quantity required for a defensive tackle. Just enough for us mere mortals!

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Nate Williams (center) works on a culinary nutrition group project at JWU Charlotte.