Notre Dame Football Recruiting

2022 TE Jack Nickel Lands Dad's Dream Offer

May 19, 2020

Paul Nickel remembers the moment when the bar was raised for him academically.

He was a freshman at Stanford and was confident he’d aced one of his first tests only to receive a C.

He approached his professor to inquire about his grade.

The meeting didn’t start well.

His professor asked where he was from and when he said he was from Ohio, his professor, who would go on to become United States Secretary of State, said she was a Cleveland Browns fan, seemingly looking to establish a common interest.

But Nickel was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

When Nickel got around to asking what he could have done better to receive a better grade, Condoleezza Rice gave him a paper she had graded as an A during a previous semester for Nickel to read over.

He hadn’t even exited the building by the time he got through the first page of the 10-page paper. He turned back and returned the paper. Rice encouraged him to take the paper home and digest it.

“I said, ‘Thanks for the C,’” Nickel laughs.

“I thought I was pretty smart until I went to Stanford.”

That single page was introduction enough for Nickel.

“It was incredible,” he says. “It set the bar for me, like OK, this place is different.”

Stanford was actually Nickel’s second choice coming out of high school.

“I wanted to go to Notre Dame as a kid,” says Nickel, who grew up in a Catholic household.

He was recruited to play tight end for the Irish, but wasn’t at the top of the board.

Notre Dame was upfront about its numbers and said there may be a spot for him after the decision of another tight end in the class. Nickel took an official visit to Palo Alto and reached out to Lou Holtz to check in upon his return.

Holtz asked for 48 hours. When 72 hours past without a resolution, Nickel committed to Stanford. A day later, Irv Smith committed to Holtz and the Irish.

Paul Nickel at Stanford

But Nickel never held a grudge and although he certainly enjoyed being a part of the Cardinal team that went into South Bend and upset the top-ranked Irish 36-31 in 1990, he always remained a huge Notre Dame fan.

He shared the memory of 1990 with his son, 2022 tight end Jack Nickel‍, when they visited campus last October for Notre Dame’s game against USC.

The Irish kept in some contact, but not a ton.

That changed earlier this month, when Notre Dame tight ends coach John McNulty extended a scholarship offer.

“I’m still in shock,” his father says. “Notre Dame is truly special.”

The responses from friends and family have illustrated that point.

“Some people will try to backpedal because they think I’ll get defensive because of the Stanford thing,” he says. “I go, ‘There’s no comparison. Stanford’s good and we’ve been competitive for a few years. But this is a school that is always good and who’s history is unmatched…maybe in sports. Not just football, but their tradition is unmatched in sports.’”

Paul Nickel is hoping for the chance to return to South Bend soon. Their trip last fall was rushed as they arrived in Chicago the day of the game. He also wants to bring his wife and their other children.

“That’s just a special place,” he said. “I’m very excited to show all of the kids.”

Nickel’s offer sheet also includes schools like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Miami, Boston College and Colorado among others.

It’s obvious the Irish will be one of the serious contenders moving forward.

“I really do not know where Jack is leaning and I will support him in any way possible. It is his decision. He has already done something I was not able to do and that is secure a Notre Dame offer.”

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