Florida State Football: Nick O'Leary's Health Is Paramount to Title Defense

Bob FerranteContributor IAugust 13, 2014

Nick O'Leary had 33 catches in 2013, and 27 of them resulted in a first down.
Nick O'Leary had 33 catches in 2013, and 27 of them resulted in a first down.Mike Stewart/Associated Press

Florida State's search for consistent receivers to complement playmaker Rashad Greene will continue for the next few weeks.

But the Seminoles already have a pass-catcher who is a tough one-on-one matchup for defenses in tight end Nick O'Leary. By no means is he a receiver, but O'Leary consistently produces. Of his 33 receptions in 2013, 27 went for a first down.

O'Leary, who was a Mackey Award finalist as a junior last season, had 557 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 16.9 yards per reception, which led all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends.

He also has 11 career touchdown receptions, the most of any tight end in FSU history.

"Nick to me is the best tight end in the country," FSU quarterback Jameis Winston said. "Nick is unstoppable out there."

A three-year starter, O'Leary is an essential piece of the offense as the Seminoles attempt to repeat as national champions. But he's also been fortunate to avoid serious injuries off the field after a pair of motorcycle accidents.

In May 2013, O'Leary was riding his motorcycle near campus and had a split-second decision to make when an oncoming car pulled into his lane. O'Leary hit the car, went airborne and was able to avoid serious injuries, Bud Elliott of TomahawkNation.com reported.

And in March, O'Leary was involved in a second accident, this time with a dirt bike. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said at the time that O'Leary was skinned and had a swollen ankle, and he missed FSU's spring game.

But O'Leary again made a quick recovery.

"I'm done riding motorcycles and all that," O'Leary said.

Nick's father, Bill, sold the dirt bike, according to The Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo.

Nov 30, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) throws the ball to tight end Nick O'Leary (35) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 37-7. Mandato

O'Leary has recovered and he can focus on his senior year. At 6'3'' and 250 pounds, O'Leary is a mismatch for defenses. He's too fast to be covered well by a linebacker and too strong to be defended by a safety. He uses his physical talents but also film study to find holes in the defense.

"It's just splitting those two guys (linebacker and safety) and getting between their coverages to get open," O'Leary said. "You just have to know how they play you in certain coverages."

O'Leary certainly seems to have figured defenses out. He has the soft hands of a receiver and quickly turns upfield, all the while looking to lower his shoulder and deliver a bruising shot to a defender.

He is an old-school football player, playing and practicing without gloves or wristbands. While he had problems securing the ball early in his career, which led to a few fumbles, O'Leary has developed into a consistent, sure-handed option for Winston. 

"Nick is like a throwback football player," ESPN analyst Desmond Howard said. "Don't need any gloves, wristbands or tape. Just give me a jersey and a helmet and let me do what I do. And I'm going to get it done."


Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats courtesy of seminoles.com and FSU media guides.