The grandson of legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick O’Leary finally lived up to the lofty expectations the Seminoles coaching staff had when they signed one of the elite prospects in their 2011 class. Called “tough as nails,” by his coaches, the tight end has also proven to be lucky, at least off the field, after he walked away from an almost devastating motorcycle accident at the end of his sophomore semester.
O'Leary has been regarded by professional scouts as an athlete who has all the promise in the world. However, prior to his junior season, he nearly had it all taken away from him after he was involved in a brutal-looking motorcycle crash back on May 2nd, 2013. Captured on video, the film of the accident shows O'Leary riding his motorcycle down a street before a car suddenly pulls out in front of him. The tight end smashed into the car and went flying out of the frame of the camera.
Witnesses state that they were amazed that O'Leary somehow survived that spine-chilling motorcycle. They stated that the Seminole product not only went flying through the air, but he eventually ended up skidding an estimated 75-to-100 feet down the highway after a car pulled out of a side street and struck him. Once O'Leary was ejected, his flipping, out-of-control motorcycle nearly smashed into a bystander on a bike before eventually crashing into a bus -- which caught the entire scene on its security camera.
Being a “tough hombre” is nothing new for O’Leary. Opposing coaches regard him as a hard-nosed, old-school player who doesn't wear gloves and possesses strong hands with a knack for finding the ball whenever it comes in his direction. He displays great versatility which allows him to flex out wide as a receiver, line-up close on the line or be used in the backfield as an H-Back.
While he did start thirteen of twenty-six games during his first two seasons at Florida State, 33 catches for 416 yards and four scores did not impress the player or his coaches. When he recovered from his motorcycle accident, O’Leary concentrated on the “little things” over the 2013 season and his rise to the elite of college football’s tight ends would soon begin.
Most professional scouts will agree that nothing about O’Leary’s game is flashy, but he plays old school” football – no gloves, no protective gear during bad weather and a “search and destroy” attitude as a blocker. That combination convinced former tight end greats on the Mackey Award committee to name O’Leary the 2014 recipient. Also a finalist for the Mackey Award in 2013, he might be better suited to play in motion than as a classic tight end.
O’Leary displays great versatility which allows him to flex out wide as a receiver, line-up close on the line or be used in the backfield as an H-Back, qualities that the most teams with multiple receiver formations are looking for. He is a pretty decent runner in the open field and after the catch for his position and has the ability to look the ball in and make the over the shoulder grabs. He has enough functional burst to separate and adjust to the ball while maintaining steady acceleration, but if lined wide, he just does not show enough explosion to separate from man coverage on deep routes.
O’Leary has been a revelation as a blocker. His twelve touchdown-resulting blocks in 2014 led the Atlantic Coast Conference’s tight ends, while his 61 knockdowns are tops for a team that featured six players that that saw considerable starting time on the FSU front line. He is decisive shooting his hands when working in-line and is very efficient getting into position and walling off.
While rehabbing from his 2013 injuries, O’Leary developed much stronger leg drive, which has allowed him to get a consistent anchor as a senior. He has also shown good pop and explosion as a second level blocker, making him an asset serving as a lead blocker on end-around plays. He has a better kick step getting into position in pass protection and shows very quick foot slide sustaining the rush lanes. He is quick enough to pull and trap, along with showing good shoulder power when leading through the holes.
Nick O’Leary NFL Scouting Combine measurables
6-3/252 (4.93 forty)
29 3/8-inch arm length
9 3/8-inch hands
30.5-inch vertical jump
110-inch broad jump
4.50 20 yard shuttle
12.40 60 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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