Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Trainer | 2022 Notre Dame TE Target Jack Nickel Has Work Ethic To Match Talent

July 13, 2020

Thomas McCants knows what people see when they first look at Jack Nickel‍.

“You notice his height, his size and muscularity,” says McCants, who trains the 2022 Georgia tight end at TYGTAL in Roswell, Ga.

“He’s a big guy.”

But there’s more to Nickel.

“The things that people don’t see, for a kid who is as big as he is, he’s very flexible,” says McCants, a former track and field star who held the American high jump record.

“When we go through our stretching routine, he’s almost doing the splits on the floor. And he’s fast. He’s deceiving. People look at him and think he’s not that fast, but he is. He’s very fast.”

The flexibility piece will be important for Nickel long-term, according to McCants.

“In his sport, he can start one way and all of a sudden has to switch and go in a different direction,” McCants explains. “If he doesn’t have flexibility, you’re talking muscles, tendons and ligaments getting torn up. You’ve got to be flexible. Athletes who aren’t flexible usually don’t last that long in sports because they become injury-prone.”

The value of speed is obvious and is something Nickel has “really improved,” since working with McCants.

“For his size, he’s pretty fast,” McCants says of the 6-foot-4.5, 230-pounder. “He’s not a 4.4-guy, but he’s 6-5 and thick. For his position, he’s probably one of the fastest guys.”

The Milton High School star sports an offer list that currently includes schools like Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, Nebraska, Oregon, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and Boston College among several others.

Thomas McCants

McCants has known Nickel since the tight end was a youngster playing football with McCants’ son and he even stood out back then.

“Jack was by far one of the best athletes out there,” he says. “He’s a helluva an athlete.”

But what McCants really enjoys is how “coachable” Nickel is.

“I like training him,” he says. “Anything I ask him to do, he does it. If he can’t do it, he’ll figure out a way and let you coach him to get it done. He’s a pleasure to work with. He’s very pleasant.

“I’ve done a lot of training with him and he comes to work. You don’t see guys with his type of talent who are willing to put in the work that he’s willing to put in to be the best on a regular basis.”

McCants says some athletes can get comfortable or complacent with their God-given talent.

“They don’t see the big picture,” he says. “They don’t understand there are other athletes who are just as talented as they are. It’s that old adage of being a big fish in a small pond. A lot of times they don’t realize that there’s a bigger pond out there. A lot of times they forget the things that got them there.”

Not Nickel.

“If I hadn’t seen Jack in a month, when he comes in, he knows he’s going to work hard,” says McCants. “He never comes in and complains about anything.”

Even if Nickel is clearly banged up and not moving correctly, the onus will be on McCants and his team to pull Nickel out.

“He will overwork,” says McCants. “He doesn’t want to not do work.

“I think a lot of that comes from the parents. The parents have great work ethics and you can see it with their kids.”

Still, McCants is convinced Nickel’s best days are ahead of him.

“He can get better, a whole lot better,” he says. “When he’s leaving college, it’s really going to be something special.”

But while he’s in college, those intangibles will lend themselves toward helping the program he ends up choosing.

“Those are the kids who are truly leaders. Guys like that, when they walk in the room, they command a presence. Now, you can build a program around this guy. If he buys in, everyone else is going to be in too because he’s a natural leader.”

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