If Nick O’Leary needs a press agent – and he does – he doesn’t need to look far. His grandfather would do quite nicely.
“Everything Nick has ever done, he picks it up quickly and he’s usually fantastic at it,” his grandfather, legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus said.
He prefers it that way because, like all good press agents, he wants the attention to be on the client. Problem is, the client doesn’t really care about publicity.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” O’Leary said.
If it did, O’Leary could talk about his 94-yard reception against Clemson. He could point out that his six touchdown receptions are tied for the NCAA lead among tight ends. He could boast that he’s one of the reasons third-ranked Florida State is a 21-point favorite over sixth-ranked Miami this weekend.
O’Leary could also refer you to YouTube. That’s where he stars in two of the most eye-popping demolition videos you’ll ever see that don’t involve dynamite or Evel Knievel.
If you’re still not impressed, he could recount his family’s athletic legacy. O’Leary’s great-grandfather was so good he played at Ohio State and in the NFL – at the same time.
His father played at Georgia and an uncle played at FSU. His grandfather did pretty well in another sport. Well enough that whenever O’Leary makes a play, announcers reflexively refer to him as “Jack Nicklaus’ grandson.”
Nicklaus gets a little tired of that. At first, he didn’t even want to be quoted in this story because he wanted focus to be on O’Leary. With just a little prodding, however, he will talk about his grandson forever.
“He took up lacrosse late and was an All-American high school lacrosse player,” Grandpa Jack said. “I remember when his brother Chris said the baseball team he pitched for needed someone to fill in during a pickup game. Nick hadn’t played in four years. The first two times he batted, he hit one off the top of the scoreboard for a triple. And the next time, he hit it over the scoreboard for a home run.”
Jack Nicklaus is known as “Peepaw” to his 22 grandchildren. Most of them are into sports, and Peepaw and his wife try to get to every game they can. They were at the season opener in Pittsburgh, where O’Leary caught three touchdowns. Let’s see Tiger Woods’ grandson top that one day.
They saw O’Leary catch a swing pass at Clemson, transform into a windshield and turn poor Travis Banks into a love bug. Clemson’s 190-pound safety had no hope against a runway 248-pounder with a red beard.
“It’s just part of the game,” O’Leary shrugged. “I wasn’t going to run around him.”
The video went viral, but it still ranks a distant second to O’Leary’s greatest collision. He was riding his motorcycle this summer and came chugging over a hill. A car had pulled out and was blocking the road. O’Leary had just enough time to aim for the car’s front tire and jump when his motorcycle hit.
“I knew it was coming,” he said. “I did what I could to brace myself and keep from dying.”
The whole thing was caught on camera by a Tallahassee city bus, which was waiting at a stop about 10 feet beyond the car. The motorcycle actually caromed off the bus windshield. It was a minor miracle O’Leary didn’t become a human love bug.
He flew past the bus and then rolled about 50 feet on hot asphalt. O’Leary sustained some bone bruises on his knees and a case of road rash. Bystanders thought he was dead, but he got up and walked to the side of the road. His great-grandfather would have been proud.
Charlie Nicklaus played for Ohio State and the Portsmouth Spartans, who eventually became the Detroit Lions. Just don’t look for his name on the all-time roster.
“He went incognito because he was playing at Ohio State,” Jack said. “He’d play for Ohio State on Saturday and then go play down there on Sunday. In those days, a lot of guys used fictitious names so they could make a hundred or two hundred bucks, or whatever they made.”
The NCAA should know there is no indication Charlie also held out for a free tattoo. As for his son, young so-and-so showed a lot of football potential. The season conflicted with the other sport he was getting pretty good at, however.
“I would have been all right for high school,” he said of football, “but I just made up my mind that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
It was probably a good decision. Jack Nicklaus now has a museum at Ohio State. He’s a big Buckeye and already bought tickets to the BCS Championship Game at a charity auction. He ran into Urban Meyer a few weeks ago and told him about the purchase.
“Urban, I didn’t buy these for Ohio State,” he said. “I hope you guys get there to play Florida State.”
If they do, you can bet ESPN will have a camera trained solely on Jack for the entire game.
O’Leary’s full first name isn’t Nicholas. It’s Nicklaus.
O’Leary supposedly shot a 77 the second time he played golf.
“It was actually Nick’s first round,” Grandpa Jack said.