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Retirement, Heart Surgery? Nick O’Leary’s roller coaster Monday

Mr. O’Leary’s wild ride.

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Nick O’Leary has always been the subject of tall tales from Florida State fans. Tomahawk Nation broke video of his 2013 motorcycle crash, which has spawned many legends of its own. Seminoles fans now refer to Nick O’Leary being hit by and stopping a bus (a Lexus pulled out in front of his motorcycle), with his crash story being referenced with every shoulder-down “truck stick” moment on the field.

The Lexus/bus/freight train stories are only topped by the constant mention of O’Leary’s lineage - it became a running joke amongst ‘Noles fans that any mention of the star tight end did not pass without broadcasters mentioning his grandfather, Jack Nicklaus (we held out as long as we could).

A common refrain from a football announcer during Florida State’s 2013 national championship campaign would be some variation of “Nick O’Leary, whose grandfather is legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, recently had a near-death experience with a Tallahassee bus”.

But Monday, Seminoles and Raiders fans found out O’Leary had another brush with fate.

Tom D’Angelo has reported on Florida State and other beats for the Palm Beach Post for many years. His location, as well as his long history in Palm Beach County sports, made D’Angelo the go-to reporter for Nick O’Leary news.

When reports of O’Leary retiring broke on Monday, it was surprising; when D’Angelo reported it, It was considered all but confirmed.

Nick O’Leary had retired? At just 27 years of age? This still seemed implausible. He had started games each of his last 5 years in the NFL, and had recently signed for Jon Gruden’s Las Vegas Raiders.

D’Angelo reported the retirement, virtually ending all doubt:

In a post-Andrew Luck era where more NFL athletes end their careers early for health reasons, this seemed reasonable.

Then Tom D’Angelo broke another story.

Nick O’Leary is not retiring. O’Leary is taking a year off from football to recover from heart surgery.

This was downright shocking. A healthy, 27-year old man with a cromulent NFL career needing heart surgery?

Two stents later, O’Leary caught up with the Palm Beach Post:

O’Leary felt like he was having heart troubles, even making jokes to his brother about the subject. No 27-year old expects to have heart problems, let alone a professional athlete and gifted football player.

After visiting the emergency room, O’Leary was told a right side artery had 100% blockage and he had experienced a heart attack.

O’Leary hopes to return to the NFL for the 2021 season, after spending the 2020 season recovering. The blood thinners he is required to take in recovery prevent him from playing this fall.

So ends a roller coaster Monday for a Florida State alumnus whose career was a roller coaster. Months after the low of his motorcycle crash, O’Leary helped raise the BCS National Championship trophy.

Seven years later, it seemed O’Leary ended his NFL career on his terms, on a high. Then his health troubles came to light.

Fortunately, the wild ride seems finished; the carnies have raised the safety harness, and the whiplash has come to an end. Nick O’Leary is now healthy and recovering, and an NFL career seems trivial after learning about serious health issues.

Florida State fans will be happy that Jack Nicklaus’ grandson (apologies, it had to be done) is healthy, happy, and recovering. Hopefully, Jon Gruden can help Nick O’Leary’s career continue in a fruitful, healthy way.