Next Man Up: Nik Scalzo, The Next Baker Mayfield?

Nick Roush10/13/18


Article written by:On3 imageNick Roush



Nik Scalzo has quite a bit in common with the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.

Baker Mayfield set records as a high school quarterback.  The UK quarterback commit already has no shortage of school passing records.  Mayfield did not have a lengthy scholarship offer sheet.  Scalzo was primarily recruited by the Ivy League.  Each were over-looked because of their height.

We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it,” Scalzo told KSR. “He had to walk-on at two schools and now he’s the No. 1 overall draft pick.”

There was one person who always thought Scalzo could be an elite college football quarterback, Eddie Gran.  Scalzo does not plan on disappointing Kentucky’s offensive coordinator.

“A Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler”

Cardinal Gibbons head coach Matt DuBuc describes Scalzo as a competitor.  Like many of Mark Stoops’ best players, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, one he developed at a young age.

“He’s got that built-in chip on his shoulder,” said his father, Jerry.  “He’s like that Chihuahua that thinks he’s a Rottweiler. Seriously, I never see him flinch. That’s the beautiful part about it. The moment’s never too big for him.”

Scalzo is no stranger to big opportunities.  In the 8th grade National Championships, the 7th-grader had to lead his team 80 yards to the end zone in less than a minute to get a chance to play in the title game.  His team left the tournament with a national championship trophy.

“He’s made play after play after play,” said DuBuc.  Scalzo has made plays for Cardinal Gibbons and in 7-on-7 tournaments.  Last summer he brought home another national championship, this time for the South Florida Express in the Adidas National Championships.  The top performer in the Florida regional Elite 11 camp, he did not get invited to The Opening because he’s only six-feet tall.

“For him it’s always been that. You’re too short. You’re not fast enough. You don’t have a strong enough arm,” his father recalled.

As outsiders doubted Scalzo’s ability, he never did.

“You put the work in, you did what you’re supposed to do and you can have a great story. Keep doing what you do,” Jerry Scalzo told his son.

The shots at his height don’t bother Scalzo anymore.

“All through little league and freshman football, I’ve always been the smallest quarterback, so I just got used to it and grew with it,” Nik said.  “All the height stuff, that’s overlooked in my opinion because if you’re a player, you’re a player. It doesn’t matter how tall you are. If you’re going to make the plays, you’re going to make the plays.”

Style Inside and Outside of the Pocket

Making plays is not a problem for Nik Scalzo.  He has a knack for making them in the most miraculous ways possible.

Defined by scouting services as a dual-threat quarterback, there’s no denying he’s an exceptional athlete.  However, that tag usually means the quarterback makes his money with rushing yards.  Instead of using his legs to get downfield, he uses them to create more time for his receivers to get open.

During a game against Dillard High School, Gibbons was backed up deep in their own territory.  The blitz got to Scalzo immediately.  Instead of panicking, he spun away from a defender.  Scrambling left, two defensive linemen were waiting for him.  He stopped, jumped, took a hit and released the ball for a first down.

If that doesn’t articulate his play well enough, this should:

What helps keep Scalzo from panicking is between the ears.  He was recruited by Ivy League schools for a reason.

“He’s a very smart kid,” his father said.  “He’s one of those kids who’s extremely athletic, but he’s very cerebral. He’s got a 4.9 GPA. He’s one of those kids that’s very, very cerebral. He’s playing chess out there.”

He prefers to use his athleticism to evade defenders before making a pass, but he’s wise enough to know when to run.  Once he takes off down the field, he kicks into a new gear.  Scalzo has one skill few have: he can do a standing backflip.  One of his favorite things to do off the field is flip off bridges into waterways.  That has use on a football field.

Flipping is kind of a Scalzo family thing.  His younger sister is a gymnast who committed to Arkansas prior to her junior year.  Jerry Scalzo refused to reveal who he thinks is his most athletic child, but Nik did not bat an eye when the question was asked.

“Her. She’s In the gym like eight hours a day. It’s insane.”

Why UK?

Scalzo has quite a few Kentucky connections.  Before B.J. Alexander and Akeem Hayes were Kentucky Wildcats, they caught passes from Scalzo in youth football leagues.  He made them look good, but he made UK freshman safety Stanley Garner look bad when he dove over Garner into the end zone last year. However, Scalzo felt a connection to Kentucky long before his peers went to Lexington.

“The first time I met him I knew that’s someone I wanted to play for.”

The short quarterback was even shorter when Eddie Gran first saw Scalzo play as a high school freshman.  The UK offensive coordinator needed to see more from Scalzo before offering him a scholarship.  He showed improvements at a 2017 summer camp.  Scalzo was in Lexington for this year’s Junior Day and the Spring Game.  Shortly after receiving a scholarship offer, Scalzo committed.

“I didn’t commit there just because it was my only SEC school (to offer). I actually believe that I can play there. It’s just a matter of time.”

In his four years of high school football, he’s already accomplished quite a bit.  Scalzo has almost every school record for passing, most recently surpassing the single-game passing touchdown record with six.  Last night he led Gibbons to a 24-14 victory over national powerhouse American Heritage.  Throwing against future SEC defensive backs, Scalzo dropped dimes to snap an 11-game losing streak against Heritage.

Scalzo has checked many boxes on his list of goals and he’s met his football hero, Baker Mayfield.

“He’s my favorite player ever. I would consider myself the same play-style as him. I’m not as cocky as him, but we have the same mentality because we’re both short quarterbacks. We’ve both been told our whole lives that we can’t do it.”

Scalzo has been told his life he can’t be an elite college football quarterback.  He plans on doing just that at the University of Kentucky.


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