Carl Nicks, the six-foot-five, 343-pound behemoth who plays left guard for the Super Bowl-champion New Orleans Saints, was, in his words, an “immature jerk” during his college years at Nebraska.
Nicks, known for having an attitude throughout his Cornhuskers career, essentially stopped attending class after his 2007 senior season. The following March, he was arrested at a disorderly party.
Newly hired coach Bo Pelini was so appalled by Nicks’s behavior, he banned him from participating in Senior Pro Day, when star Nebraska players audition for NFL scouts.
Nicks left college carrying a huge chip on his shoulder.
“For about a good three or four months, I had blamed [Coach Pelini] for it, I’m blaming other people,” Nicks told the Lincoln Journal. “And at the end of the day I looked in the mirror and I realized how good I had it and how bad I treated everybody here.”
Nicks left Nebraska without a degree, without a proper thanks to those who had taught and nurtured him as a football player. Still the Saints selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and for the last two seasons he has been one of the rocks of their stellar offensive line. In February, he celebrated the Saints’ unexpected Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts.
But something was troubling him. Something was still left undone.
“I just got to my knees and prayed,” he told reporters. “I really thought about all the stuff I’ve been through in life. And I thought about high school and I thought about Nebraska, and it really hit me: I need to go back there and really set things right. Because I didn’t go out the right way.”
On April 13th, Nicks, now 27, showed up unannounced at a Nebraska team practice. He approached Coach Pelini. The two spoke for several minutes. “I basically apologized to [him] for being an irresponsible athlete,” Nicks told reporters. “I didn’t really have to do it, but I felt I needed to do it. I’m not who I was then. It just kind of hurts, to know I made a fool of myself.”
Pelini was moved by Nicks’ apology—enough so that he welcomed him back and gave him some heartfelt advice. Return to school and earn your degree, he told Nicks.
Don’t be surprised if Nicks does.