CALDWELL, Idaho — If you look at the list of College of Idaho football coaches, one may stick out. That one is Nala, and while she might stand on four legs, she still serves as the team's student-athlete wellness supporter.
Nala can usually be found either in the football offices at the College of Idaho or helping conduct football practices at Simplot Stadium.
The two-year-old pup is the dog of Coach Leon La Deaux, the Yotes' wide receivers coach. La Deaux, who was hired two years ago, got Nala around the same time he started in Caldwell. Their relationship is inseparable.
“I know people say this," La Deaux said, "but she is like my friend, more than anything else. She’s always there, she’s comforting, she’s loving, she’s a goofball.”
As a student-athlete wellness supporter, Nala hangs out with athletes from all programs at the school, helping to provide fun, support, or just a friend.
Nala has even become so well known around campus, that different faculty members keep treats in their desks for her when she comes around.
Originally, La Deaux got Nala in hopes that she would become a service dog, but after she grew into her personality, it was clear she wasn't fit for that role. La Deaux says because of her friendly nature, Nala was never able to pass the service dog test.
That doesn't bother La Deaux though, or the team. She just transitioned from service to emotional support.
While Nala is around the guys all the time, she still enjoys her girl time. That is why she gets along so well with Yotes' athletic trainer, Clarissa Alexander.
Alexander works with athletes who have been injured a lot, so she sees the importance of Nala's role.
“That’s a large part of what our job has become is emotional support," Alexander said. "And having her here just cheers everybody up.”
Receiver Jake Nadley says he is grateful for Nala's presence.
“It was helpful to have her there," Nadley said. "And bring that positive energy when you might not be so positive about what’s happening injury-wise.”
I’m asking Nala the tough questions, “Tug of War or Fetch?”— Brendyn Jones (@brendyn_jones) October 26, 2022
Story coming soon… 🎥🎤🦮 https://t.co/zZyKDti0Is
Nala has definitely left her paw on the program, and La Deaux wouldn't have it any other way.
“I almost now can’t imagine why you would have an athletic program or sports team and you wouldn’t have a dog, [why] you wouldn’t want to have a Nala or something.” La Deaux said.