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Nick Tiano: Small-School Stud with Intelligence and Intangibles to Lead NFL Team

Who is Nick Tiano? Find out in this NFL Draft Diamonds Exclusive from Craig Forrestal! The former Mississippi State gunslinger is winning over NFL scouts and former personnel.

By Craig Forrestal

What are the traits of an NFL franchise QB? What do you look for?

Many teams often look for someone that can process information quickly and is a confident decision-maker. Many teams covet a QB that has prototypical size with a rocket-launcher arm and is a threat with his legs. Many teams want a high character guy that has been well-coached and started a good sampling of games performing at a high level. 

NFL teams look no further because Nick Tiano checks all those boxes.

“Being a high character guy and leader is something I pride myself on and it has been a big point that all my coaches have talked about,” is how Tiano recalls the biggest lessons he has learned from football, as he keeps that message in the forefront of everything he does. 

Speaking of coaches, if you try to find a QB that has had better coaching in the 2020 NFL Draft than Tiano you will have an extremely tough time.

While at Mississippi State, Tiano played for Dan Mullen and is well known for his role in the development of QBs such as Alex Smith at Utah, Dak Prescott at Mississippi State and Tim Tebow at Florida. His position coach at Mississippi State was Brian Johnson, who finished his college career as the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl MVP, 2009 Sugar Bowl MVP and Utah’s winningest QB at the time. 

Then when Tiano arrived at Chattanooga he learned under the tutelage of Tom Arth and Justin Rascati. Arth, now the Head Coach of the Akron Zips, spent time in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and ran a pro-style offensive attack. Rascati is a former national champion QB for James Madison University, serving as the Mocs OC before joining the Denver Broncos staff in 2019. 

This past season, Tiano paced the Chattanooga offense under the guidance of HC Rusty Wright and OC Joe Pizzo. Wright and Pizzo each came with extensive coaching backgrounds; both holding over two decades worth of coaching experience at the college level. This offensive system had a more spread-based concept as showcased this past season.

And to top it all off, Tiano’s personal QB Coach is ex-NFL OC and Colorado State HC Steve Fairchild. Fairchild comes with an impeccable resume having coached the likes of Kurt Warner, Drew Bledsoe and Josh Allen, current QB of the Buffalo Bills, most notably.

Now, throw in the fact that Tiano has ideal size for the QB position standing 6ft5, 240 pounds and you start to get the makings of a player that was made for the NFL game. As Fairchild noted there are physical similarities between Tiano and Drew Bledsoe.

Fairchild likes what Tiano brings to the table and gave a ringing endorsement for the QB, “ His approach to the game has become very technical and schematic. He can’t get enough work. He is a big guy and is a quick-twitched athlete given his size. There’s no doubt in my mind he is good enough physically to play in the NFL.” 

Craig Domann, Tiano’s agent of 360 Sports based in Colorado Springs, summed it up perfectly as he stated, “He has a first-round mentality.”

That first-round mentality was on display during Tiano’s final home game as a member of the Chattanooga football program, as he orchestrated a comeback victory after being down 2 TDs late in the second half. Tiano’s unshakable demeanor brought the team back and he sealed the deal, as he ran in the 12-yard game-winning score, capping off a dramatic 34-33 win. Tiano accounted for 298 passing yards and 2 passing TDs in the game as well keeping the team alive throughout the game. When asked about how Tiano rallied troops he said it was not a very complicated message but a rather simple message. He told the team they would get the ball back, and if they all remained calm and trusted him they would get back into the ball game.

That performance makes it easy to see how he was named the SoCon Offensive Player of the Month for November. In November, Tiano put together a four-game stretch where he accumulated 1,050 yards (858 passing and 192 rushing) with 11 total TDs (7 passing and 4 rushing). This award was the perfect exclamation point on a wonderful career; where Tiano recorded 27 career starts earning an invite to the NFLPA Bowl in Pasadena, CA. 

It was at the NFLPA Bowl where Tiano’s pedigree was fully exposed as he earned MVP honors of the game throwing for 135 yards and 1 TD. When asked about his experience from the week in California, Tiano said, “It was just an incredible week. For me, that was an opportunity I was really looking forward to, so I could show all the NFL teams what I can do.  Like other small-school guys will tell you we’re not on national TV every week so that’s a huge opportunity.” 

It was a huge opportunity as Tiano played for the National team coached by Marvin Lewis and featured Hall of Fame players as assistant coaches. Tiano said, “Yeah, growing up I was a huge fan of the NFL, so a lot of those guys I’ve watched growing up or heard stories about them. They have so much experience where any advice, anything you can take from them is going to be helpful. So to have a whole week to spend with guys like that that know exactly where I want to go and how to get there was a truly unique and helpful experience. So I tried to soak up as much as I could because they’ve done exactly what I want to do in the NFL.”

This is the type of high character leader an NFL team will get. Tiano is a “we” guy.  There are very few “I” statements from him, keeping the focus on a collective team effort for one common goal: winning the game by getting better every day. 

But getting better is not relegated to the field for Tiano. Tiano played the 2019 season while holding a 4.0 GPA in his Master’s of Business Administration program after graduating with a Business Management undergraduate degree in the Spring.

“Everything you do in your life you should do with a purpose and everything goes hand-in-hand. If you’re lazy in one area, you’re going to be lazy in another.  I felt if I slacked-off in the classroom that would show up on the field. So for me, [school] was always important and I always took a lot of pride in being successful in both areas. I think your GPA tells a lot about you with the effort and time you put in.” 

And that work in the classroom has paid off as Tiano has applied those study habits to the playbook. When the conversation turned towards football and specifically passing concepts that is where Tiano shined. One of Tiano’s favorite passing combinations is the “Sail Concept.” You could hear the excitement in his voice as he took me through all of his reads and progressions from pre-snap to the end of the play. Tiano took the time to not only tell me why he would make the decisions that he would but asked me numerous times if I was following along and if I needed any clarification. He broke down every player involved in the concept and did it for a variety of coverages becoming laser-focused on the finest of details ensuring I followed along every step of the way; echoing statements from Domann about Tiano being an “offensive coordinator’s dream” and how he “truly understands the game.”

It is in the small-school players that NFL teams find success just as Fairchild can attest to having coached Kurt Warner a notable small-school standout. Tiano is a small-school prospect that does not deserve that label having shown numerous times throughout his college career he thrives under pressure. It is comfort in uncomfortable situations that produces greatness and Tiano has found immediate ways to adjust to coaching changes and still perform at a high-level without making any excuses that some players make due to new systems or other obstacles that may arise. Instead, Tiano focuses on his ultimate goal of playing in the NFL:

“Playing QB in the NFL is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and I feel like I’ve worked and prepared myself to be ready for that moment. I think there are a lot of guys every year with the physical tools with the big arms that throw really nice balls. And I think the guys that make it, in the NFL, are the guys who are leaders, high character, gain the respect of the team and the organization and the guys who are the smartest on the field. They know where to go with the ball, they are on time and accurate. Those are things that I want to show teams. Mentally, I am going to prepare in a way that’s going to make me the smartest guy on the field and be ready to perform at a high level.”

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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