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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Jack Nickel Makes Parents Proud With Notre Dame Decision

July 27, 2020

There was something different about the Notre Dame offer for Jack Nickel‍ and his family.

“There’s only been one school that has put both of us in a choked-up mode and I can’t explain why,” Paul Nickel says of himself and his wife, Lisa. “I don’t know what it is.

“Something overwhelming hits you when that school offers you and shows interest and really wants you. I think it’s because we both appreciate the name of Notre Dame and what it means. If you don’t know, it may not be as powerful of an offer, but if you do know, how can you not get choked up? It’s such an impressive place.”

Lisa echoes that sentiment.

“When they offered Jack, they asked all of us as a family to get on a Zoom call,” she recalls. “We had no idea why. We figured they wanted to talk more to us and get to know us as a family. I was really impressed with that. There are very few schools that have done that. I just think the coaching staff and the whole way they’ve gone about the recruiting process is top-notch.”

Jack, a tight end in the Class of 2022, announced his commitment to the Irish on Monday.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” his mother says. “I can’t even tell you how proud I am.

“What a great opportunity for him.”

Lisa notes she also “definitely got teary-eyed” during Zoom discussions between her son and staff members at Notre Dame leading up to today’s announcement.

“Both Paul and I were hoping that was the decision he would make even though we didn’t want to pressure him into making that decision,” she says. “We wanted him to make it on his own, so four years down the road, he wasn’t like, ‘Mom, Dad, why did you make me go here? It’s all your fault.’ He had to make the decision on his own.

“But obviously in the back of our minds, this is what we were hoping for.”

Jack’s younger siblings have proven to be standout athletes as well and they could very well find themselves with similar opportunities one day, but Paul, who played football at Stanford, says that’s never been at the forefront of the family values.

“My goal wasn’t for my kids to receive scholarships, my goal has always been for all of my kids to be good citizens,” he says. “Some people may not believe me, but it’s true.

“I think by being a good citizen, it’s helped him put his priorities in order. By putting your priorities in order, you can work toward your goals a little bit faster.”

Nickel certainly put in the work.

“I definitely think he deserves it,” his mother says. “It’s something he’s worked hard for and I feel like that’s where he belongs.

“The education, the size of the classroom. The football kids are like-minded like him. I think education is the biggest thing and just the name that Notre Dame carries. They’re the top. I’m really impressed with the way they handled the whole recruiting process.”

Lisa was also impressed with the campus during the family’s independent unofficial to South Bend at the end of June.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” she says. “It’s definitely the nicest school I’ve ever seen. I’d have to say Stanford is pretty close.”

Paul asked his son to keep in mind the importance of the people he’d be around in a college football program.

“‘That’s really important,’” Paul remind his son. “‘If you stop playing football – God forbid you get hurt – you’re around a lot of like-minded people. You’re not just a football player. You’re a football player and a student. And while you are playing and if you’re healthy, it’s nice to be around like-minded people. You are going to be away from home for the first time in your life by yourself.’

“I think it’s a little more real there when it comes to being a student-athlete than maybe at some other schools. People forget, you go to school to go to school. You don’t go there to play football.”

But Paul isn’t discounting the importance of football either.

“Look, we went to the football game last year,” he says, referring to an unofficial visit for the game against USC back in October. “That was impressive. We weren’t looking at the Engineering building, OK? We were looking at the football stuff. That’s part of it too.

“But we noticed this time, the Mendoza College of Business is right across the street from the Stadium. We didn’t notice it before. As you start diving into Notre Dame, you’re like, ‘This is a really good school over here; the College of Business, top five.’”

As a former college player, Paul always wanted to make sure his son wasn’t playing the sport simply because he did.

“‘Do you still like football?’ Paul would ask. “He’d say, ‘Oh, I love football.’ That was very important to me. I didn’t want him to do something because I did it.”

And his experience helped accelerate his son’s understanding of the sport and what was required to succeed.

“I can tell him a lot of the stuff that I didn’t do that I should have done,” Paul says. “He took the bull by the horns and worked on a lot of things; his footwork, blocking, hand placement, catching the ball, route-running. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s definitely deserving. He’s a very competitive kid, very competitive to the point where Luke and him can be a little ridiculous when they’re playing Xbox.”

Paul is “very, very proud” of the decision his son has made.

While Nickel had plenty of other opportunities that would have fit him fine, his parents are convinced that Notre Dame is a special place for him and anybody who receives that opportunity.

“I think Notre Dame opens a lot of doors, a lot of doors,” he continues. “I’m starting to realize that I was right the first time when I was looking at Notre Dame, that it is special. It is a special place.”

Paul was leaning toward Notre Dame during his own recruiting process, but the Irish ended up taking Irv Smith to fill the position that cycle.

“It was never the plan, but it kind of worked out this way,” Paul says of Jack having the opportunity to make the decision he couldn’t. “We’re not there yet in terms of finality of signing on the dotted line, but what I would be lying to you if I didn’t say it didn’t feel good that he was able to accomplish something going to Notre Dame that I wasn’t able to do.

“Now, the next step is what is he going to do with that opportunity? He has to make the best of it and stay grounded and continue to work because everyone is good. It’s a huge feeling of excitement.”

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