The Senior Bowl is college football’s ultimate equalizer. It doesn’t matter your upbringing, how many stars were on your Rivals’ recruiting page, whether you played in the Power 5, Group of 5, or below the FBS level. All that matters is you’re here, competing on the same field, looking to win rep after rep, day after day.
That’s Old Dominion offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri. They are Division One, now in the Sun Belt, but it’s on no one’s mind of a big football school. All Saldiveri wanted was a chance to compete, to help a program win. A light recruit from Monroe, North Carolina, he went to the first school that gave him the chance to play football at the next level.
“I got an offer from Old Dominion off my junior year of high school tape,” he tells me in a Wednesday interview. “I went to a junior day there and they gave me an offer and they were my first offer. I liked Old Dominion and the people there in the area and all that stuff. I saw potential in the university. I felt like I could go there and maximize my potential and I did that. They were the first people to offer me and I’m big on loyalty and they gave me my first opportunity and I appreciated it.”
With an offer his junior year, Saldiveri knew he could’ve kept his recruitment process open, tried to increase exposure his senior year, and see if other offers to bigger schools came in. But he closed the recruiting process once Old Dominion presented a firm offer, commitment not often seen in college football’s current world of transfer portals.
For most of his career, he played right tackle. But when the school needed him to see work at guard, he jumped right in. It may be only one spot to his left, right tackle to right guard, but it comes with its own challenges and changes.
“Understanding that things happen faster and you gotta use your hands more. You can’t be setting with any type of depth when you’re the guard because you’re right in front of the quarterback.”
Though he has tackle size at 6’6, 311 pounds with over 33-inch arms, he spent Wednesday’s practice working at right guard. At times looking a little less than comfortable, fighting his height, working on not giving up the pocket’s interior, but he held his own against SEC and Power 5 opponents.
He’s sharing the week with an old coach too. In 2019, Grady Brown, the Steelers’ defensive backs coach, was on Old Dominion’s coaching staff as a defensive coach. Brown is coaching the National Team with Saldiveri on the American squad so they haven’t had the chance to catch up. But Saldiveri remembers the impact Brown had on his team.
“He’s a great coach, great guy…I didn’t have as much interaction with him but all my interactions with him have always been pleasant.”
There might be more of a chance to connect by week’s end. He has a formal interview scheduled with the Steelers Thursday evening.
Saldiveri might be *only* a smaller school lineman but those guys have made money at the Senior Bowl before. Last year, Cole Strange went from relative unknown out of UT-Chattanooga to New England Patriots’ first round pick. Recent years are full of other examples: Alex Cappa, Ali Marpet, Quinn Meinerz, and Trevor Penning.
But Saldiveri isn’t caught up in the past. He’s focused on the here and now. Finishing this week of practices strong and proving he belongs in Saturday’s game. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in for a rude awakening.
“I love the game of football. And I’m a competitor at the end of the day. Trying to show people that I’m athletic. And that if you believe in me, I’ll prove you right. And if you don’t, I’ll prove you wrong.”