July 4th is a special day in America, a day marking America’s independence from British colonial taxation. So as you celebrate today with friends, hot dogs, and movies about aliens, I ask you: why stop there, when it could be so much more than that? I’m not talking about winning World Cup matches and drinking tea. I’m not talking about lame fireworks. I’m talking about real fireworks, the kind that go BOOM so hard it echoes in your chest cavity:
No no no, not that kind of fireworks. The real kind, the kind where you feel your soul exit your body for a brief moment. This kind:
After watching that, we can only conclude that Nick O’Leary’s legend will echo through the ages. You may think that sounds suspiciously like hyperbole, but I assure you, Travis Blanks doesn’t think so. Neither will his descendents. Or some random old grandpa-lookin’ dude named Jack Nicklaus - I have no idea why he would have popped in my head. Weird. Anyway, as the top-ranked tight end in the 2011 recruiting class out of Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Nick O’Leary brought everything but the gloves.
Because he didn’t need them.
Because he was awesome.
So what did “throwback” tight end O’Leary do at Florida State? Oh, I don’t know, how about be the best tight end in school history? Or maybe the best tough-as-nails tight end that also suffered numerous motor-bike accidents that he all thankfully walked away from.
He was a Mackey Award finalist as the nation’s best Evel Knievel impersonator and a third-team All-American and second-team All-ACC player on his way to winning a national title as a junior in 2013. He did his share hauling in 557 yards receiving and seven touchdowns with an ungodly 16.9 yards per reception, an average which led all tight ends nationally. That might have been helped in part by a monster 94-yard reception against some South Carolinian pretenders. He had 161 receiving yards that night, a school record for a tight end. Only a starter on the sport’s highest-scoring team of all time, no big deal.
A three-year starter, as a senior in 2014 O’Leary became the school’s all-time leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for a tight end. This time he posted 619 yards and six touchdowns as the team’s second-leading receiver and was named a consensus first-team All-American by no less than eight publications, becoming just the second tight end in school history to achieve that honor. He also finished what he started and won the Mackey Award this time, the first Seminole to do so, and was named first-team All-ACC.
Oh, and he suplexed a guy:
That was in the same game where O’Leary’s fumble recovery for a touchdown down 21-0 sparked what was then FSU’s best comeback victory in school history.
In all, O’Leary amassed 1,591 yards and 17 touchdowns in the Garnet and Gold, on 114 receptions - a 14-yard average. The 17 touchdowns are also the second-highest mark among tight ends in ACC history. Along the way, he stepped out of his family shadow, just like he wanted to. I’m pretty sure it was the suplex that did it. He was drafted in the sixth round at 194th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2015 draft. He is currently with the Miami Dolphins, and has 559 yards - with a 14-yard average - and three touchdowns in his pro career.