As the PGA Tour kicks off 2018 in sunny Maui this weekend, Jack Nicklaus will turn his focus to … the NFL Playoffs.
Yes, the NFL playoffs.
Nicklaus will watch his grandson Nick O’Leary compete in his first NFL postseason game on Sunday. O’Leary, the son of Jack’s daughter Nan, is the starting tight end for the Buffalo Bills, and when he takes the field in Jacksonville for Sunday’s Wild Card game against the Jaguars, Grandpa Jack will be on hand.
“I can’t think of a team I’d rather them play, because I think they match up well with the Jaguars and, like the Bills, Jacksonville’s fan base has been waiting a long time for a return to the playoffs,” Nicklaus told GOLF.com.
O’Leary and the Bills punched their ticket to the playoffs with a win last Sunday against the Dolphins. It ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought — and put the Golden Bear in a tricky spot.
“I’ve been a Miami Dolphins season ticket-holder since day one, 1966,” Nicklaus said. “For me to go to a Miami game in a Buffalo Bills hat and a jacket in their team blue, I felt a little funny. But hey, I’m getting to see my grandson play and watch his Bills, with a chance at the playoffs. You don’t go against your grandson.”
Nicklaus actually led a caravan of Bills fans, who traveled via two buses to Miami. Nan housed the families of two of Nick’s teammates for the weekend, and the large group of family and friends filled five sections of Hard Rock Stadium. They had plenty to cheer when O’Leary caught the second touchdown of his young career. The excitement of the moment had Nicklaus tearing up.
After the game Nicklaus and his wife Barbara turned their attention to TVs at the stadium, as the Bengals beat the Ravens to officially punch the Bills’ ticket to the postseason. Jack and Barbara then caught up with Nick, his teammates LeSean McCoy and Kelvin Benjamin, and his coach, Sean McDermott.
“We made sure to speak to and congratulate other players, but as for Nick, you have to remember, he’s my grandson, so we talk about a variety of things not related to the football game,” Nicklaus said. “We tried not to make a big deal of it, but we were really pleased.”
Nicklaus knows the Super Bowl is still a long road ahead, but the 18-time major-winner has allowed himself to kick back and reflect on what this moment means to his grandson.
“Nick is playing at the highest level of his sport,” Nicklaus said. “I was fortunate to play at the highest level of my sport. To have that happen with a grandson, and to have the opportunity to watch him compete and succeed, it’s really exciting for me. I get emotional inside. I’m emotional just talking about it right now.”