Nick Ossello always dreamed of being a college football player, and the Colorado native was well on his way to becoming one. Earning All-Colorado honors as a quarterback and safety at Wheat Ridge High School, Nick caught the eye of schools like the University of Montana and the Air Force Academy.
"I'll never forget when Maryland e-mailed me and said, 'We're interested in you,'" said Nick. "I was like, 'Wow, I've been waiting for this e-mail since I was a little kid.'"
Nick always wanted to play college football over college lacrosse but, the Division I offers for lacrosse were too big to turn down.
And so was Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame just gave the best of both worlds, both academically and athletically," said Nick. "[They have] a top lacrosse program and top academics. So, ultimately, when Coach Corrigan and Coach Byrne reached out to me, pretty much as soon as I set foot here on campus, I couldn't turn it down."
The decision to play lacrosse at Notre Dame paid off for Nick. During his junior year, the Irish made it to the NCAA Championship game and lost to Duke. Last year, Nick's senior year, Notre Dame suffered an overtime loss in the semifinal game to eventual champion Denver. It was a goal from Nick that forced the game into overtime with 9 seconds left in regulation.
Not only is Nick proud of the program's success but, he is was also happy to be a part of putting lacrosse, and Notre Dame lacrosse specifically, on the map. When #1 Notre Dame beat #2 UNC last year at home in front of a sold out crowd, the students stormed the field in celebration, a rare occurrence for a college lacrosse game.
"One of the coolest things was just to see how much the sport of lacrosse grew from where it was my freshman year to my senior year," said Nick. "Not only to be a part of a great program like Notre Dame, but just to see the sport of lacrosse grow was an unbelievable opportunity that I'll always be appreciative of."
Lacrosse was so promising for Nick that he even got drafted to play professionally for the Denver Outlaws, his home Major League Lacrosse team.
Then, his childhood dream to play college football resurfaced.
"I was talking to my dad and we found this rule in the NCAA where if it's a different sport, the NCAA will give you a fifth year of eligibility," said Nick. "We thought that was kind of neat."
After finding that out, Nick wasn't ready to give up on his childhood dream just yet.
"I started reaching out to some old football coaches that had recruited me," said Nick. "I was looking at Montana and was actually very set on going there. Then, Notre Dame reached out to me."
Notre Dame, the school he had helped put on the map for lacrosse, the school whose football team he had cheered for every Saturday during his time at Notre Dame, the school he was going to earn a degree from, was offering him a shot at living out his childhood dream.
"After the lacrosse season ended, I had a couple of meetings with the [football] coaching staff [at Notre Dame] and just went over the options between Montana and here," said Nick. "Again, it was pretty much impossible to turn down playing football for Notre Dame."
In the spring of 2015, Nick graduated from Notre Dame with a marketing degree. Shortly after, he returned for summer training camp, trading in his lacrosse cleats for football ones.
"Over the summer, I kind of got the gist and the flow of how [college] football works," said Nick. "But, it is a very different sport."
One of those differences, Nick mentioned, is that football involves less running and more contact than lacrosse, something he enjoys but has had to get used to.
"The lacrosse coaches for four years were telling me, 'Don't hit people that hard, you'll get a penalty,'" said Nick. "And now, it's like, 'Nick, go hit that person as hard as you can.' So yeah, I'm trying to forget everything I've learned over the last four years."
On Texas weekend, game day finally arrived for Nick and the rest of the team. The childhood dream of playing college football was now a reality for Nick, and other first-time college players, as they walked into the stadium from the Gug that Saturday afternoon.
"That was, no exaggeration, the coolest moment of my life," said Nick. "I had an extra pair of gloves that I gave to a kid and his whole family thought it was so awesome. Then, running out of the tunnel to the smoke and everybody screaming, that was just something else. I really wish I had the words to describe how it felt and what it meant, but I don't."
Nick is listed as a linebacker on the current roster and while he hasn't seen any minutes on defense yet this season, he has played special teams in two of the first three games.
"That was incredible," said Nick. "It was kind of tough because on one hand, I was like 'Yeah, I'm in the game, I gotta go hit somebody, I gotta do something.' And on the other hand, it's like, 'I have to stay focused on my role so I don't get yelled at during film.' While it was an incredible adrenaline rush and it was awesome running out on the field, I still had to stay focused."
Nick has certainly experienced the best of three different worlds: Notre Dame, lacrosse, and now football. But, it didn't come without hard work and endless determination to live out his dream.
Once the football season is over, Nick hopes to put his Notre Dame degree to use and enter the job market. But, not surprisingly, he remains interested in playing sports just a little bit longer.
"If I had to guess right now, I'd be playing pro lacrosse for at least a couple of years, something to tell the kids about and keep the dream alive of playing sports," said Nick. "My priority right now is finding a good job and getting my career off on the right foot but I also want to end up playing pro lacrosse for a few years."
Whether he plays professionally or not, Nick already has a lot to tell his future kids about. Notre Dame lacrosse player, Notre Dame football player and, most of all, University of Notre Dame graduate.