Most everyone has heard by now about superstar Nick O'Leary flipping off the crowd following Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer's loss in one of the Kirk Herbstreit National Kickoff Classic games at Ohio State on Labor Day.
Dwyer fans, players and coaches were miffed at some poor officiating during the game. Dwyer quarterback Jacoby Brissett even appeared to score the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter but officials waved it off and Dwyer ended up losing the contest to Cleveland Glenville, where Ted Ginn Sr., father of former Dolphin Ted Ginn Jr., is head coach.
This caused tempers to flare and trash-talking to flourish. As the teams walked off the field, O'Leary waved the old "We're No. 1" salute but used the wrong finger.
Sure, this is in the heat of the moment; emotions get to the best of us and things about which we are not proud sometimes overcome. But this is somewhat shocking coming from a descendant of the Golden Bear himself. His grandfather is legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus. Nick O'Leary's first name is short for Nicklaus. His namesake deserves better representation.
I don't recall Jack ever feeling the need to shoot the bird at the gallery. Birdies, maybe. Not the bird. He's no Colin Montgomery.
The fact that O'Leary was the player with the gesture is not at all surprising given his personality. He's as tough a competitor as anyone you'll meet. I've spoken with him a few times and he comes off a little standoffish at first, but he HATES talking about recruiting, so his interviews are probably not much of a guide to his complete personality.
My first reaction upon seeing the clip of the gesture was, "Wow, what is grandpa going to think about this?"
Well, for now, the family has a bit of bird doo on its face and it might teach young Nick a little something about public image when he is representing such a proud family. O'Leary, the No. 3-ranked player in the Sentinel's Florida Top 100, by Bill Buchalter, is a leader, a captain on the team. He should be leading by example, even if at the time it seems like a very difficult thing to do. An outburst such as this on the field could cost his entire team.
He was suspended for two games by the Florida State High School Athletics Association. He missed last week's game against Palm Beach Gardens. The suspension is being appealed so that he might play this week against Pahokee.
Coach Jack Daniels, himself upset with the officiating in Ohio, was not pleased with the suspension.
"We handled it internally. Nick knew he was wrong," Daniels told the Palm Beach Post. But after the FHSAA learned the school was not suspending its star, it came down with its own ruling.
The unfortunate part of the whole story is that it takes away from what O'Leary accomplished on the field. He had nine catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. This kid — dare I say kid, since he's a full-fledged, adult-sized6-foot-4, 211-pound man among boys — is the most talented tight end I have ever seen at the prep level. Before that for me it was the former Michigan Wolverine, Pittsburgh Steeler TE Jerame Tuman out of little Liberal, Kan. Tuman could catch the ball as well as any tight end, but he was more of an extension of the offensive line.
O'Leary can single-handedly carry the offensive load and his teammates on his back, right down the field. We watched him do it at the Gridiron Kings, where he caught all seven balls on a touchdown drive during one game, despite everyone at ESPN's Wide World of Sports knowing the ball was going to him. Double, triple coverage…no problem…bring a fourth, he doesn't care.
But bring your temper in line with your talent, Nick. And that doesn't mean a beast on the field should be a beast off. The Beast in the famous Disney movie learns to turn off his ferocity at appropriate times. Take heed, young bear cub.
And by the way, Dwyer did get robbed. The officiating was an embarrassment to the entire state of Ohio, as it would have been the entire state of Florida had it happened here. That crew won't see another Kirk Herbstreit Classic, I'm guessing.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.