Nate arrived on the scene as the high school student just cast in the lead role of Cole Thornhart in the play Langston Wilde had written, "Starr X'd Lovers." Matthew Buchanan immediately appeared threatened that Nate would be spending a lot of time rehearsing with his girlfriend Dani, who was cast in the lead role of Starr Manning. While rehearsing their lines one day in Danielle's hotel room, Nate and Danielle kissed for the scene and got uncomfortable when they realized they both liked it. After watching her father get beaten nearly to death by Cole, Dani expressed her frustration during a chance meeting with Nate in the park and they kissed. Nate nearly asked Dani to go to the prom with him but Matthew interrupted him, so he accepted an invitation from the head cheerleader. After learning from Dani that she and Nate had kissed, Matthew warned Nate to stay away from her. But Nate continued to get closer to Dani and impulsively kissed her one day at Carlotta's diner. When Destiny saw them, she told Dani that she would tell Matthew if Dani didn't come clean to him.
Nate was pleased when Dani told him she had broken up with Matthew. Nate and Dani began spending a lot of time together. One day while at the quarry, Nate and Dani stumbled on a metal briefcase buried in the woods that contained $50,000 in cash. Nate and Dani took the cash but left the briefcase behind. Nate told Dani that his mother had lost her job several months ago and was about to be evicted from her home, and Dani told Nate that he should give all of the money to her. Dani traded in the cash for a bank-issued check and Nate presented the check to his mother, explaining that he had won the money in the lottery. Nate's mother was suspicious but was grateful for the money and readily accepted it. Nate took a summer job as a pool boy at the country club and was treated like a second-class citizen by Matthew, who was still angry about losing Dani. Nate was held hostage by a thug named Bull who learned from Matthew that Nate had stolen the $50,000. Nate called Dani and told her to get the money back from her mother, but instead Dani turned to her father Todd Manning for help. Dani freed Nate as Todd prepared to pay off Bull, but all hell broke loose after Nate tried to hit Bull over the head with a shovel. Todd ended up shooting Bull to death, but Nate and Dani emerged unscathed.
Nate consoled Dani after she learned her mother was dying from an inoperable brain tumor. Nate visited James Ford in the hospital and apologized for stealing his money from the quarry. James accepted the apology, although his brother Robert Ford blamed Nate for nearly getting his brother killed. Nate was overjoyed when his mother got a job working for Police Commissioner Bo Buchanan. But his joy turned to anger when Inez revealed that she had two other sons she had kept from Nate: Robert and James Ford! Nate had always been told that his father left him and his mother, but Inez said the truth was that she left Nate's father because he was abusive and had threatened Nate's life.
Nate struggled to forgive his mother and tried to reach out to his new brothers. While James was willing to get to know Nate, Robert was resistant. Nate vouched for Ford at the country club, enabling him to get a job when he was fired from Llanview University. Nate confided in James that his girlfriend Dani was going through a difficult period because her mother had just died and she was being torn between her biological father and the father who had raised her. When the judge awarded custody of Dani to Ross Rayburn, Nate was heartbroken because it meant she would have to move back to Tahiti.
Nate went to James and asked for his help to keep Dani in town. Nate distracted the police outside Todd's home while James climbed into Dani's bedroom window, surprising Dani and Starr. Dani left with James, and Nate told authorities he didn't know what happened to her. Todd realized Nate knew that Dani was safe but didn't blow the whistle to the cops. Nate was petrified when Dani was kidnapped by Elijah Clarke and reunited with her at the warehouse after Eli released her. Nate was stunned to learn that Dani's mother was alive after all.
With the crisis involving Danielle behind them, Nate and Dani tried to get back to a normal teenage life. Then Nate's no-good father, Eddie Ford, showed up in Llanview and began to cause trouble for his sons and Inez. Eddie at first thought Nate was Inez's new lover, until she told him that Nate was their son. On Thanksgiving Day, Nate learned that his father had punched James in the face after crashing their holiday celebration. After Dani pulled away while she and Nate were making out, Dani admitted that she was a virgin and Nate told Dani that he wasn't. After Eddie was released from jail, he showed up at Inez's apartment and proceeded to make some crude comments to Dani before Nate showed up and punched him in the face and warned him to say away from his girlfriend.
Eddie soon turned up murdered. Nate was arrested on suspicion of murder after police found the gun in Inez's apartment and an eyewitness identified Nate as having left Eddie's hotel room the night he was killed. Nate maintained his silence, but privately remembered standing over Eddie's lifeless body with a gun in his hand. Téa represented Nate in court and was about to get the charges dismissed, on the grounds that police didn't have enough evidence to convict, when Nate suddenly admitted he was guilty. Téa suspected that Nate was covering for his mother, believing she was the real murder. On the stand, Téa forced Nate to admit that he had nothing to do with his father's murder. Instead, he had gone to Eddie's hotel room with a bunch of jewelry he had stolen from the Manning home, hoping to frame Eddie for the crime. But when he got there, Eddie was already dead. Nate quickly left the room and returned the jewelry to the Manning's home, all except for one of Todd's cuff links that had accidentally fell out of his bag.
Freed of all charges, Nate and Dani began dating in earnest. Dani pulled away while making out with Nate one day and admitted she was still a virgin. Nate confessed that he wasn't and thought about being with her constantly, but said he wouldn't rush her. On Valentine's Day 2011, Dani told Nate that she wanted to make love to him and invited him over to her parents' house, since they were supposed to be in New York City. But Todd arrived home early and caught Nate and Dani in a state of undress. Todd began threatening Nate, while Dani called Starr in a panic. Starr and James arrived and got Todd to ease up, but Dani was furious and stormed off with Nate. They holed up at Viki's cabin in the woods, and Nate encouraged Dani to call Téa to let her know she was OK. Starr and James soon arrived, but Dani refused to leave. That night, Dani and Nate nearly made love but Dani realized she still wasn't ready. The next morning, the foursome prepared to leave when an enraged Todd showed up and threatened them with a gun that turned out to be a fake. Todd forbid Dani from seeing Nate again and even threatened to send her back to the London boarding school, but Dani stood firm and told Todd that he couldn't control her life.
Todd came around with some convincing from Téa and allowed Dani and Nate to continue seeing each other. Nate supported Dani after Todd was shot by an unknown assailant and went into a coma. Dani and Nate found Tomas in Todd's hospital room, standing over Todd's bed. Tomas quickly left, and Dani and Nate then found a syringe on the floor that they learned wasn't issued by the hospital. Nate questioned whether Tomas had dropped it, making Dani angry. Todd awoke after about six weeks and named Tomas as his shooter. When Tomas' fingerprints were found on the syringe, he was arrested.
Nate took an instant liking to his brother James' former girlfriend Deanna, who had recently come to town. When James and Starr began having arguments because Deanna was staying with James, Nate offered for Deanna to temporarily move in with him and his mother. Dani felt threatened by Deanna and Nate's closeness and was concerned that Nate would sleep with Deanna, since they hadn't slept together yet. Nate assured Dani that he was only interested in her however. Nate overheard Destiny tell Dani that Matthew was the one who shot and killed Eddie and was furious when Dani failed to say anything to him. Nate's anger reached a boiling point after Matthew's uncle Clint Buchanan took the rap for the murder on live television. Nate marched over to Matthew's home and punched Matthew in the face, causing Matthew to fall down and hit his head. After Matthew got up, he confessed to everything. Nate threatened to turn Matthew in to the police if he didn't confess. Later, Nate was horrified to learn that Matthew had been rushed to the hospital after suffering a serious head trauma, and he realized that he was to blame.
Nate confided what he had done to Deanna, only to be overheard by sleazy porn producer Rick Powers. Rick promised to stay quiet if Nate and Deanna starred in his new sex film, Hold the Diploma. To sweeten the pot, Rick got the information on Deanna's birth mother that she had been desperately searching for and offered to hand it over if they filmed the movie. Nate and Deanna reluctantly agreed to shoot the porn. Deanna quickly left town to search for her mother, and Nate tried to put the incident behind him. But during the premiere of David Vickers Buchanan's new movie, Vickerman, Rick switched out the film with his own movie. As Nate watched in horror, everyone in town saw his movie debut on the big screen. Dani lashed out at Nate, who admitted to Dani that he was the one who caused Matthew's injury. Dani ultimately forgave Nate and sought his comfort when she found out that the man she thought was her father was actually her father's twin brother and that her actual father had returned to town to reclaim his life. When Bo confronted Nate with evidence that placed him at the scene of Matthew's injury, Nate admitted the truth. But Bo decided not to press charges against Nate since it would mean implicating Matthew in the murder of Eddie Ford. Nora confronted Nate for causing her son's accident but backed down when Nate promised not to tell anyone what Matthew had done and even offered to turn himself in.