Former Old Dominion offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri projects as one of the top small-school prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
A three-year starter at the collegiate level with experience at tackle and guard, Saldiveri has been quite busy with the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine. In these events, he has used the opportunity to prove himself as not just capable of playing at the same level of his Power 5 counterpart, but that he’s arguably better than many of them.
Saldiveri spoke with Windy City Gridiron about his collegiate career, how he’s dealing with the pre-draft process, some of the stars he’s gone up against practicing at Old Dominion, and more.
JI: You’ve been active this offseason through the Senior Bowl and the Combine. What’s it been like for you being involved in such prestigious events?
NS: Yeah, man, it’s been awesome. It’s been a great opportunity, obviously, to get in front of some people and get some more eyes on me as this whole process goes along. I feel like, in terms of interviewing with teams and getting in front of teams, that’s been a big help to me. Being able to get in front of them and talk to them and show my knowledge of the game and show them what kind of person I am, that’s, that’s a big part of it all, obviously. Then, in terms of the physical side, the Senior Bowl was obviously a huge opportunity to go out there against great competition and showcase my talents and show what I can do and show why teams should be interested in me. I feel like I capitalized on that opportunity pretty well, in my opinion. In terms of the Combine, that was a big week of interviews and medical and stuffs, and then it all comes down to just one day. I had a pretty good showing, and I’m happy about it, because obviously I’ve been training for it for past couple months. Now, that’s behind us: on to the next.
JI: You were one of the top performers among offensive linemen. That’s gotta be something to be happy with.
NS: The Combine is interesting, because you train completely differently for the Combine than you do as an offensive lineman in a regular offseason. It’s a completely different beast than anything else that you’re doing, so I was just trying to take it one event at a time, just locking in on one thing at a time and not getting too caught up in everything. I didn’t shoot 100% — there’s some things I want to run back in the Combine — but at the end of the day, it is what it is. That’s life. I feel like I moved well in terms of the drills. Being able to be around offensive line coaches was good, and be coachable, and just look fluid and smooth out there is what I was looking for. I feel like I did look fluid and smooth in the offensive line drills, and that was a big plus.
JI: You overlapped with Oshane Ximines and Keion White during the stints they had at Old Dominion. Can you speak to practicing against them and how it helped you?
NS: Yeah, absolutely. Oshane was a fifth-year senior when I was a true freshman at Old Dominion, so I definitely spent some time on the practice field against him. It was definitely a humbling experience and a very, very valuable learning experience to be able to go against someone of that caliber immediately when you get to college. The good thing about Oshane is, he was a great leader, and he gave you credit when it was due. He wasn’t the kind of guy that would just like beat on you and make you feel bad about yourself. He’s a guy’s going to tell you, “you’re gonna be alright, just put your head down and work, and you’re gonna like where you’re at”. That’s just a takeaway from him: just keep grinding. When he was a true freshman, he wasn’t an NFL prospect right when he got there. He had to grind, get to work. It took long, long hours in college, and he stayed [at Old Dominion] for his entire career, which I commend him for, and he had a great career, and he was someone great to learn from.
In terms of Keion, I definitely had a couple of years with him. My redshirt freshman year was the year that he had switched from tight end to defensive end, and you could tell whenever he switched over to that side of the ball, he was just getting in the backfield all the time. You can just tell that he had potential to be a special player on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, like, he transferred out and went to Georgia Tech and had some success, so he’s definitely a great player. He’s a big, athletic dude, and being able to go against that kind of guy in practice definitely makes the games a little bit easier.
JI: In speaking with teams, is there a consensus on whether they want you staying at tackle or if they want to kick you inside?
NS: It very much so depends from team to team. Every team has different needs. Some teams definitely view me as an inside guy, some teams definitely view me as a tackle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if every team gave me my opportunity at tackle before they decided to move me inside I feel like that’s just something that teams would do, but if they need someone to plug and play the inside, they might not even bother playing me at tackle. It kind of just depends from club to club. I’m just the kind of guy where it doesn’t matter to me. I’m an offensive lineman at the end of the day, and I want to be on the field. I want to play ball. If it’s at center, it’s at center. If it’s at guard, it’s at guard. If it’s at tackle, it’s at tackle. It is what it is.
JI: That’s a strong team-first mentality.
NS: Yeah, and being able to go to the Senior Bowl...I had a whole career at tackle, [and] being able to go to the Senior Bowl and play guard and center and play like I played, every snap I took in the game was that center. Being able to get that under my belt before I head in is big time.
JI: You did play some games at guard in college. How does your mentality and game plan change, kicking inside after spending most of your time at tackle?
NS: Yeah, you just have to understand what you’re getting yourself into and understand that you’re going against different kinds of rushers. Therefore, your set plan has to be different. You’re studying different guys, as well, but if it’s just an on-the-fly thing in the middle of the game...one, you already studied them throughout the week, so you should have an idea of what they’re doing. Then two, you just have to understand that things happen a little quicker [inside], and you have to anchor down a little bit quicker, and you get to understand your advantages, too. When I’m moving inside, I have a good length advantage and good athleticism advantage and bend advantage. You have to take those into account and play to your strengths, really. You just have to understand that your strengths are going to be different at tackle a little bit on the inside.
JI: How do you like to spend your free time outside of football?
NS: Right now, throughout training, I definitely play video games with my boys from college, just to stay in touch. It’s just an easy way [to stay in touch], and then I like to hang out with my dog. I don’t have my dog right now; he’s with my girlfriend, because I’m busy, and I’m not really in a dog-friendly environment, in an apartment and stuff. Being able to spend time with my dog spend time outside...I mean, it’s nothing really crazy. I like to spend time with the people that I care about, as well. That’s a big one for me.
JI: What kind of dog do you have?
NS: I have a lab-hound mix. She’s a big, lanky dog.
JI: It seems like a lot of the offensive linemen I talk to have those bigger dogs.
NS: I mean, I wouldn’t hate [having a smaller dog], but yeah. I have a big dog, but she still feels like smaller to me because I’m just so much bigger.
JI: Are you more of an Xbox or PlayStation guy, or do you do PC?
NS: I’ve always been an Xbox guy my entire life, but just like a month ago, I got a PS5, so I transitioned over.
JI: How’s the switch going for you?
NS: [There’s] not really a difference. The PS5 has been sweet, it runs great. Really, the only difference, in my opinion, is the controller, but I like the controller, so it’s all good.
JI: I’m an Xbox guy, and I was playing Chel (NHL) on PlayStation the other day. It took a little bit to get used to the controller. What kind of games do you play, though?
NS: I love Chel. I used to play Chel in college with my roommates all the time. Now, I just play Call of Duty and Madden because I don’t have Chel this console yet, but yeah, pretty much all sports games, and then Call of Duty.
JI: Has it kicked in that you’re gonna see yourself in Madden real soon?
NS: It definitely kicked in at the Combine, when we had to go in and do our body scan for the game and everything. That was definitely cool. But yeah, it’s definitely crazy. It’s gonna be crazy when you can actually see it.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
NS: You’d be getting somebody who is a leader and somebody who is accountable and reliable, and someone who’s going to sell out for the organization.