Those who don’t know Nathan Yamaguchi simply have to tune in to a University of Alabama football game this season to see the Wilmette native as a face of the university’s national ad campaign.
The “Where Legends Are Made” campaign premiered during the home opener game Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where the Crimson Tide took on Middle Tennessee State University, winning 56 to 7.
“I definitely feel some impostor syndrome,” Yamaguchi said. “Alabama is about where legends are made and I think it’s a really cool opportunity to tell my story just like every student here has their own story.”
The 2018 New Trier graduate is in his sixth year at the university, working toward his MBA after finishing his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. He also spends his time interning with the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned electric company that serves most of Tennessee and parts of six neighboring states, including Alabama.
The Yamaguchi family isn’t new to the university despite living about 700 miles away. Nathan’s mother attended the university and his grandparents met there. His grandfather even played for the Crimson Tide on their football team.
“My last conversation I had with my grandfather was letting him know that I was going to the University of Alabama for school, so that’s really cool,” he said. “He passed away a couple weeks after that conversation but I’ll always remember that last phone call.”
Yamaguchi credits the education he received at New Trier with giving him a solid base for his academic future, saying that he hadn’t realized at the time he attended it how great its resources were.
On top of his internship and taking part in the ad campaign, Yamaguchi also takes part in the university’s Manderson MBA case team working on a sales analytics case for Heineken and a labor force retention case for Saddle Creek Logistics, a third party logistics company. During undergrad, he held positions as the chief of staff for the university’s student government association and president of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity in his junior year.
Rounding out his resume is Yamaguchi’s work as a local DJ in Tuscaloosa, performing at area bars and working gigs for functions held by university student organizations.
“I was really into music from a young age. Always loved playing the drums and guitar,” he said. “When I got to college, I knew there was a lot of demand for DJ’s so I bought one of the starter controllers from Guitar Center and I would just spend a few nights in my room just learning how the different controls work.”
Yamaguchi turned to engineering to foster his love of analytical thinking and hopes to combine this love with the business skills he’s learning as he studies for his MBA. His work with the Tennessee Valley Authority lets him use his engineering background while working in more of a finance sector.
Yamaguchi became a face for the campaign after professors reached out to the university and recommended him, saying he would be a good example of what students can achieve at the University of Alabama. This surprised him considering, he never imagined going so far from home to attend college. He initially was only focused on finding a school with a solid mechanical engineering program, but Yamaguchi said as soon as he stepped on campus, he knew Tuscaloosa would be his new home.
“Everyone at the campus just had this authentic joy and cohesion that I didn’t really feel at any of the other schools I toured,” he said. “It’s a reflection of how invested a lot of the faculty are in students, especially coming from the Chicagoland area and out of state, to be welcomed and treated like family by so many people that I didn’t know a year, five years ago, was really a blessing.”
The campaign consisted of filming a 30-minute interview about his story alongside b-roll footage of Yamaguchi and still photos. This was compiled into a nearly four-minute video where Yamaguchi calls attending the University of Alabama the best decision he has made thus far in his life.
Yamaguchi said that when most people think of the University of Alabama, they think of the Crimson Tide and their coach Nick Saban, but they miss how the culture of the football program bleeds into all other aspects of the campus.
“The University of Alabama has a really strong understanding of its brand identity. It’s all about excellence,” he said. “Even the student organizations approach their leadership with a sincere desire for excellence in everything we do here. That translates to a culture in the entire campus where everyone wants to make the most out of their college experience.”
Looking forward to the 2023 SEC football season, Yamaguchi only had one thing to say, “Roll Tide!”