Former Penn State walk-on kicker Nick DeAngelis, a native of Ramsey, N.J., harnessed the viral power of TikTok for a chance to boot field goals at the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field on Saturday.
He built a following of 46,800 fans with videos of splitting the uprights, and he lobbied NFL teams for a chance to kick at their stadiums with captions like “Day 7 trying to get [an] NFL team to let me make a video in their stadium.”
The Lions’ social media team responded recently and agreed to accommodate him: So @ndeangelis04, as he’s known on TikTok, will launch from the Ford Field turf on Saturday.
“I’m just looking for a host anywhere,” DeAngelis, 25, said on the phone Thursday. “In the past, people said I wouldn’t be able to play Division I, that I should quit. I won’t give up. I just need somebody to look at me one time.
Saturday’s showcase isn’t a tryout with the Lions. But DeAngelis hopes one of his kicks one day will open the right pair of eyes and fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo (Ridgewood, N.J.), a former Georgia Southern standout, memorably stormed onto the national radar in 2016 with a viral video of Koo doing a backflip as he made a field goal try with no holder.
Koo just signed a five-year, $24.5 million contract extension with the Falcons in March.
“That’s kind of how I’ve been modeling this,” DeAngelis said. “He had videos of him kicking and flipping after it. You just need to get your foot in the door. That’s all I need to do.”
The Lions confirmed for the Daily News that its social media team had arranged Saturday’s stadium visit for DeAngelis. Detroit’s social media team responded to one of DeAngelis’ recent videos with a message from their official account: “maybe we talk in a couple of weeks?”
Then the team followed up on another: “DMs are now open.”
DeAngelis eventually connected directly via text with someone on Detroit’s social team to confirm his visit. But amazingly, he paid his own way and flew to Detroit on Friday afternoon without any other assurance that this was real.
“I just need one person to see me,” he said, explaining why it’s worth it. “Hopefully something comes of it.”
DeAngelis isn’t just doing this for himself. His father, Adam, is battling cancer. He says his dad, his mother Christina, and his brother are his biggest supporters and the reasons he’s fighting.
“My dad spoke to the schools, did everything he could to make sure my dream came true,” said DeAngelis, who has done some local coaching and training of athletes. “My mom kept me positive and never let me quit.”
DeAngelis mostly had played basketball and some soccer his whole life until the spring of his junior year at Ramsey High School. Then one day, classmate Anthony Popolo, a lineman and long-snapper on the football team, asked for help catching snaps.
DeAngelis obliged and then took a shot at a few field goals, just for kicks.
“I teed the ball up on my shoe and I was kicking, making them from 50 yards,” he said. “We took videos, sent it to our high school coach, and I played senior year.”
He went on to become first-team all-league, setting a school record for made field goals (7-of-9) and converting all 38 of his extra points. Now he’s kicking at Ford Field.
“Once he made the commitment, it was full steam ahead,” Popolo, 24, who played at Division-III Juniata College (Pa.), said in a Friday phone interview. “We went to a lot of showcases and trainers together and he took advantage of it.”
DeAngelis kicked for two years in college at Division III William Paterson, near home, after initially committing to Monmouth as a preferred walk-on. Then he transferred to Penn State and was one of three walk-ons on James Franklin’s 2017 Nittany Lions roster.
That was Saquon Barkley’s 11-2, Fiesta Bowl winning Penn State team that rose to No. 2 nationally and finished No. 8 in the country. DeAngelis had to sit out that season as a transfer, though, and couldn’t carry enough credits over from Paterson to get eligible from 2018.
Then the pandemic hit in his draft year of 2020. DeAngelis’ agent at the time told him he’d spoken with the Lions. Nothing materialized. But DeAngelis wouldn’t quit.
He went to coach Gary Zauner’s annual special teams camp in Arizona in 2020 and attended the HUB free agent camp in Los Angeles last October. He has worked out alongside pros, including Koo.
Nothing has promoted his talent, however, like his own hustle on TikTok.
“It used to be you just shared your game tape through [the highlight application] Hudl,” said Popolo, an underwriter for Webster Bank in Manhattan. “But now social media’s become such a tool in so many ways. Coaches are on it… This is incredible. [Nick] is so deserving because of his work ethic, persistence, the time he’s put in.”
Who knows if Saturday’s showcase at Ford Field, plastered on DeAngelis’ TikTok page for the world to see, will prompt an NFL team to call him for a workout. Crazier things have happened.
“I always say if I ever make it, we’ll make a movie,” DeAngelis said.
He seems pretty good at that.
Source: Berkshire mont