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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Nick Zakelj, OT, Fordham University

Nick Zakelj Fordham
Nick Zakelj is an imposing specimen on Fordham’s offensive line that made All-Patriot League First Team in 2019. He recently sat down with Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Nick Zakelj
  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 325 lbs
  • Position: OT
  • College: Fordham University
  • Twitter: @Nick_Zakelj31

Tell us about your university/college. Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?

I go to Fordham University, which is located in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. Fordham is a great place with great people and excellent academics, and I’m proud to represent it. It’s a gated campus which allows it to be its own world inside of such a big city like New York. I have participated in some organizations mostly associated with the Business School such as the Fordham Finance Society. 

How did you end up at Fordham?

I never played O-Line until my senior year of high school so most teams that reached out to recruit me were for either linebacker or D-line, but Fordham took a chance on me to play O-line. I loved the campus and atmosphere of the program so I committed. 

What do your teammates say is your best quality?

Leadership and work ethic.

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skillset?

I see myself as a strong leader who sets a good example of what younger guys in the program should be like. As far as schemes go, I’m most comfortable with a zone-blocking scheme. I’ve played Left Tackle since my sophomore year which to me really suits my skill set but I’ve also played Left Guard and Right Tackle in my career. I feel like I’d be able to play any position on the line that my team would need me to play. 

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?

I’d say Sam Kamara from Stony Brook

Check out NFL Draft Diamonds 2021 Small School Rankings

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?

I gotta go with two and they are Glenn Cunningham and Ryan Greenhagen, two linebackers who have just relentless motors and are absolute ballhawks, two of the best linebackers in the FCS, and it’s a great challenge going against them in practice every day. 

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.

One time was the first game of last season against Central Connecticut when I suffered a partial tear of my hamstring. I went back into that game, but after I was unsure if I was gonna be able to play the rest of the year. Luckily I was able to treat it so that I was able to play the next week, but for that next month it was a struggle moving and having to rehab my strength and flexibility in that leg.

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?

I’m most proud of being able to play the game that I love at a great school. It’s a blessing that many people don’t get so I’m grateful for the opportunity. My biggest achievement would probably be getting CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team in 2019. Doing well in school is one of my main priorities and to be recognized for that means a lot to me. 

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.

Has to be the go-ahead touchdown last year against Georgetown. We drove the ball to the red zone with under a minute left in the game, and it came down to a 4th and goal. Tim [Demorat] threw a perfect ball to Fotis [Kokosioulis] in the corner of the endzone to put us ahead. I’ll always remember celebrating in the endzone with my teammates; it was a feeling like no other. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?

Definitely track, I was a pretty good discus thrower in high school but my technique was terrible so I feel if I really worked at it I would be decent. My personal best was 157′ 5″.

What was your major/minor? Other than football, what would be your dream job?

I’m a Finance Major with a concentration in FinTech. My dream job would be an executive at a large Wall Street firm. 

What have you been working on in the off-season?

A big emphasis has been my technique in both pass pro and run blocking. Being big and strong is important but if you’re sloppy with your technique you won’t be successful. I’ve also been working on my flexibility through stretching and yoga. 

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?

Being from Cleveland, it was great watching Joe Thomas play growing up. I didn’t have nearly the knowledge I do now about the game, but watching some old games he was such a technician and one of the best of all time. I love the way guys like Quenton Nelson and David Bakhtiari play the game but I wouldn’t say I model my game after any one player. I love to watch the film and try to apply techniques that other guys show into my game.  

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have any secret talents?

Most of my spare time is spent hanging out with friends and family, I love to watch movies and I picked up golfing during quarantine so that’s also something I like to do. I enjoy reading, most of the books I read involve statistics or the financial industry as those are two things that really interest me. 

Why do you play football?

I play football because I love the game. Nowhere else can you physically hit and impose your will on another man, and that’s one of the reasons football is the greatest game in the world. There are also many things on the football field that serve as parallels for real life too, so there’s a lot to take away from the game as a whole. 

Who or what motivates you the most?

My family. They’re the ones who push me to be great and support me even when I’m not. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and for that, I strive to be the very best I can be. 

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