When Jack Nickel was in eighth grade, he and his father made the trip down to Orlando for the 2018 Citrus Bowl game between Notre Dame and LSU. The pair arrived on New Year's Eve and rushed to the team hotels for a chance to meet some of the players and coaches.
As LSU got off the bus, Nickel noticed coach Ed Orgeron and asked him for a picture.
"He was like 'yeah just let me put all of my stuff in my room,' " Orgeron told Nickel. "He went out of his way to come all the way back down just to take a picture with me so that's pretty cool."
Fast forward two years and the Alpharetta, Georgia native has now received a scholarship offer from the LSU program. The Tigers offered the 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end on July 20, with Nickel having the chance to talk with Orgeron a few days later.
Nickel couldn't help but remind Orgeron of the two's meeting just a few years prior.
"I brought that up to him and he said 'Well now you have to be a Tiger,' " Nickel said. "Just talking with him, he's a really good guy and it seems like everybody loves him.”
In addition to LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Wisconsin, Penn State, Florida State are just a few of the other big programs to offer Nickel a scholarship. The Tigers came away extremely impressed with Nickel's film, describing him as a do it all kind of player.
"They told me that I'm not just a receiver or just a blocker and that I do both things pretty well," Nickel said. "I feel like I am more of a balanced tight end, I pride myself on blocking and I can still run routes real well. I also feel like my hands have become stronger and I've become even better at catching those 50/50 balls."
Because he's just entering his junior season at Milton High School, Nickel knows there's plenty of room for improvement. This offseason he's spent time training to get faster and stronger.
"My first step quickness is something I've really worked hard on because that's the most important thing as a tight end," Nickel said. "Getting that separation from the linebacker or the slot corner is pivotal to being a successful tight end."
Nickel says a big reason he thinks college programs are starting to take notice of his talents is the similarities in the type of offense Milton runs and what a lot of the college programs today run.
With Nickel also starting as a freshman, it's an accomplishment that many college programs have also pointed out because of how tough it is to make an impact at such an early age in high school.
"We run some spread stuff and some pro style stuff," Nickel said. "I'll spread out to receiver and I've played an in-line tight end so on my film you can see I do both of those things. I think college programs take notice of that."
As a freshman, Nickel helped guide Milton to a state championship but wasn't quite able to mirror the same success as a sophomore. Milton ran into juggernaut Marietta High School, led by current LSU freshmen Arik Gilbert and BJ Ojulari, who wound up winning the state championship as seniors in 2019.
While Gilbert and Ojulari are hoping to make an impact as freshmen in 2020, Nickel was following the 2019 LSU team and its quest towards a national championship. In past years, the tight end position at LSU has never been one to be featured in the passing game.
In his lone season as a starter, Thaddeus Moss rewrote the single-season record books for receptions (47) and receiving yards (570), something that caught Nickel's eye when watching.
"They weren't really known for throwing to the tight end before but this year Moss really stood out to me," Nickel said. "This year they kind of combined the college spread offense with a pro style. I think it sets their offense apart from a lot of other schools because they had more depth and it was more advanced."
While Nickel hasn't yet visited LSU's campus, he said as soon as the recruiting dead period ends he'll set up a visit to see the facilities and meet some of the staff. Catching up with Orgeron will certainly be on the to do list as well, possibly to pose for another picture with the Tigers' coach.
"My dad and I watched a coach O video on Youtube and it was his story of how he became LSU's coach," Nickel said. "That was really cool because you can tell he's a really honest, straight forward guy. I think LSU has a really good family atmosphere that's been created since he's been there."