Nick Ossello was a two-sport star at Wheat Ridge High School, earning All-America accolades in lacrosse and All-Colorado honors in football as a senior. His best college options were the University of Montana for football and Notre Dame, Denver, Syracuse, Maryland and North Carolina for lacrosse.
Notre Dame won out, and he accepted his football dreams being over.
Not so fast.
Just as he wrapped up a sterling lacrosse career for the Fighting Irish in the spring, he learned of the chance of a fifth year of eligibility. In football.
Ossello’s father, Steve, was told by a golfing buddy that the NCAA allows a fifth year to a student-athlete who wants to play a second sport. Nick confirmed the rule with the Notre Dame compliance office and word got out to first-year Montana football coach Bob Stitt, who had tried to sign Ossello when Stitt was coaching Division II Colorado Mines in 2010.
Word spread that Ossello, who was drafted by the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse, would stiff-arm professional lacrosse and a “real job” in the Denver area to play football at Montana as a graduate student. But Notre Dame didn’t want to let him go. Members of the Irish football staff alerted head coach Brian Kelly, and ultimately Ossello decided to stay in South Bend, Ind., despite not having played football since 2010.
“How cool is that, man?” Steve Ossello said. “It sounds like he’s going to see the field, which is pretty awesome.”
Nick Ossello, a 6-foot-2, 227-pound strong safety, could become a special-teams starter. At Wheat Ridge he played quarterback, safety and punted.
“He is a big, physical kid that we can plug in right away who is a mature, mature kid,” Kelly said of Ossello during a preseason news conference.
Ossello said he’s fifth or sixth on the depth chart at strong safety, but has a good chance to play on the kickoff and kickoff-return teams.
“It’s been a dream of mine as long as I can remember, and now I’m actually here, playing big-time college football,” Ossello said. “But I knew what I was getting into. One summer and then a camp isn’t enough to fully understand the Notre Dame defensive playbook. Just the pass-coverage terms is like 127 words long. They do an unbelievable job of covering every single scenario, and I didn’t have enough time to fully understand and learn the playbook.”
Former Wheat Ridge football coach Reid Kahl isn’t surprised that Kelly wanted Ossello.
“I love that kid,” said Kahl, now the head coach at Brush High School. “Next year will be my 26th year coaching football and he’s one of my all-time favorites because of his desire to compete, desire to win, his toughness. The kid is fearless.”
Farmer to Fighting Irish
Nick Ossello, a former two-sport star at Wheat Ridge High School, concluded his four-year lacrosse career at Notre Dame in May and now is playing football for the Fighting Irish. His major accomplishments:
Sophomore starter on Wheat Ridge’s 2008 Class 4A state championship team.
Two-way senior starter for the Farmers in 2010, when they lost the 4A state title game.
Named team MVP, and was selected for the All-Colorado team in 2010.
High school All-American as a senior and two-time team captain.
Made 14 of his 16 career starts at Notre Dame as a senior, finishing fifth in team scoring with 23 goals and 29 points.
Scored two goals in each of his last two games, in NCAA Tournament quarterfinal and semifinal games.
Mike Chambers, The Denver Post