Bills' O'Leary seeks to get out of grandpa Nicklaus' shadow

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) The all-too-predictable golf references began shortly after tight end Nick O'Leary completed the opening session of the Buffalo Bills' rookie minicamp on Friday.

''Great day to golf,'' someone began, to which O'Leary politely nodded and noted how sunny and warm it was.

With a first name like Nicklaus, O'Leary is as accustomed to fielding questions about football, as he his swing and famous grandfather, Jack Nicklaus.

''His name will always come up,'' said O'Leary, who prefers to go by Nick. ''And I don't have a problem with that. I love him. He's my grandpa. And he's the greatest golfer who ever lived. I mean, that's just how it's going to be.''

Family connections aside, the sixth-round pick wouldn't mind an opportunity to change the conversation by making a name for himself.

It's a process O'Leary began during an accomplished four-year career at Florida State. That's where he helped the Seminoles win the 2014 national championship. He then capped his senior year by earning the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end.

Now O'Leary makes the jump to the NFL, where he'll have to prove himself all over again after nearly losing his patience by waiting until the 194th pick to hear his name called last weekend.

''Yeah, I think I'm motivated to show people what they're missing out on,'' O'Leary said. ''But I'm happy to be here now and do what I need to do to help this team.''

He'll get an immediate opportunity in new coordinator Greg Roman's offense that relies on tight ends being involved in the passing game. O'Leary is competing for the No. 2 spot behind newcomer Charles Clay, who was lured away from the Miami Dolphins in March.

At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, O'Leary is slightly undersized for an NFL tight end. His speed is also an issue, though O'Leary's 40-yard time of nearly 5 seconds at the NFL pre-draft combine was slow because of a hamstring injury.

And yet, O'Leary showed a consistent ability to make clutch plays at FSU, where he set school career records with 114 catches, 1,591 yards and 18 touchdowns, including one rushing.

''Everybody tells you he's not the fastest, he's not the tallest, he's not the most athletic,'' Bills player personnel director Jim Monos said. ''But then you watch him, and all he does is make plays on one of the best teams in the country.''

O'Leary showed immediate flashes of his catching ability in practice Friday.

Running up the right hash mark, O'Leary turned and saw tryout quarterback Austin Trainor's pass sail behind him. Reaching back with his left hand, O'Leary batted at the ball and pulled it into his body all in one motion to make the catch. Later, O'Leary had two linebackers all over him, when he caught and held on to a perfectly placed pass.

Those two plays caught new coach Rex Ryan's attention.

''One thing we know, if (the ball's) around him, he's going to catch it,'' Ryan said.

A multisport athlete growing up in Palm Beach, Florida, O'Leary didn't begin playing organized football until middle school. The lure of football was a simple one, he said: ''I just loved to hit people.''

Always big for his age, O'Leary enjoyed playing pickup games without pads. And he still refuses to wear gloves, preferring instead to get the feel of the ball in his hands.

''Unless it gets freezing cold where I feel like I need them, then I'll put them on,'' he said. ''But until then, I'm not going to wear them.''

Ryan doesn't discount O'Leary's pedigree for playing a factor in his success thus far.

''Obviously, his grandfather, Jack Nicklaus, was decent under pressure, I'd say,'' Ryan said, winking. ''We hope he's close to that.''

NOTES: With Trainor the only quarterback in practice Friday, the Bills have invited Monmouth QB Brandon Hill for a tryout. ... The camp continues with practices on Saturday and Sunday.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.