Former Old Dominion offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri is considered one of the top small school picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
A three-year collegiate-level starter with tackle and guard experience, Saldiveri has been quite busy with the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine. In these events he has taken the opportunity to prove that not only is he capable of playing at the same level as his Power 5 counterpart, but that he is arguably better than many of them.
Saldiveri spoke to Windy City Gridiron about his college career, how he’s handling the pre-draft process, some of the stars he’s faced off in practice at Old Dominion, and more.
JI: You were active this offseason through the Senior Bowl and Combine. How was it for you to be involved in such prestigious events?
NS: Yeah man it was great. It was of course a great opportunity to step in front of some people and get more eyes on me as this whole process unfolds. I feel that interviewing teams and appearing in front of teams has been a great help. Being able to get in front of them and talk to them and show them my knowledge of the game and show them what kind of person I am, obviously that’s a big part of everything. Then, obviously on the physical side, the Senior Bowl was a big opportunity to go up against big competition and show my talents and show what I can do and why teams should be interested in me. I feel like I made good use of this opportunity, in my opinion. In terms of the Combine, it’s been a big week of interviews and medical questions and stuff, and then it all boils down to just one day. I had a pretty good performance and I’m happy about it because obviously I’ve been training for it for the past few months. We’ve got that behind us now: on to the next one.
JI: You were one of the high performers on the offensive linemen. You have to be satisfied with that.
NS: The combine is interesting because you train for the combine very differently than as an offensive lineman in a regular offseason. It’s a totally different beast than anything else you do, so I was just trying to take it one event at a time, just focus on one thing at a time and not get too hung up on everything. I haven’t shot 100% – there are some things I want to backtrack on the Combine – but at the end of the day, that’s the way it is. So life is. I feel like I’ve moved well in terms of the exercises. Being able to be with offensive line coaches was good, and being coachable and just looking fluid and smooth was what I was looking for. I feel like I looked fluid and smooth on the offensive line drills and that was a huge plus.
JI: You crossed paths with Oshane Ximines and Keion White during their time at Old Dominion. Can you speak against them with practice and how it has helped you?
NS: Yes, absolutely. Oshane was a fifth year 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 compete against someone of that caliber right away when you come to college. The good thing about Oshane is that he was a great leader and he gave you credit when it was due. He wasn’t the type to just beat you up and make you feel bad. He’s a guy who will tell you, “You’ll be fine, just put your head down and work and you’ll like where you are”. That’s just one of his souvenirs: just keep grinding. Being a true freshman, he wasn’t an NFL prospect 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’s had a great career and he was someone who was great to learn from.
Regarding Keion, I definitely had a few years with him. My redshirt freshman year was the year he transitioned from tight end to defensive end, and every time he switched to that side of the ball, you could tell he was just getting into the backfield the whole time. You can just tell he had the potential to be a special player on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously he moved to Georgia Tech and had some success so he’s definitely a great player. He’s a tall, athletic guy and being able to play against a guy like that in training definitely makes the games a little bit easier.
JI: Talking to the teams, is there a consensus as to whether they want you to stay in tackle or if they want to kick you in?
NS: It depends a lot from team to team. Every team has different needs. Some teams definitely consider me an insider, others definitely consider me a tackle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if each team gave me my tackle opportunity before deciding to bring me inside. I think that’s just something teams would do, but if they need someone to pocket the inside and play, they might not even bother playing me at tackle. That depends from club to club. I’m just the type that doesn’t care. 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 in the middle, it’s in the middle. If it’s guard, it’s guard. If it’s tackle, it’s tackle. It is what it is.
JI: That’s a strong team-first mentality.
NS: Yeah, and going to the Senior Bowl… I’ve had a career in tackle, [and] Being able to go to the senior bowl and play guard and center and play the way I played, every snap I took in the game was that center. Being able to get that under my belt before I head out is a big time.
JI: You played a few guard games in college. How does your mentality and game plan change as you step inside after spending most of your time on tackle?
NS: Yeah, you just have to understand what you’re getting into and understand that you’re up against different types of rushers. Therefore, your set plan must be different. They also study different types, but if it’s just a spontaneous thing mid-game… firstly, you’ve been studying them all week, so you should have an idea of what they are. do again. Second, you just have to understand that things are going a little faster [inside], and you need to anchor a little faster, and you also get to know your advantages. If I move inwards I have good distance advantage and good athletic advantage and good cornering advantage. You have to take that into account and really play to your strengths. You just have to understand that your strengths at tackle will be a little different internally.
JI: How do you like to spend your free time outside of football?
NS: Right now, I definitely play video games with my guys from college during practice just to keep 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 a 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, being able to spend time outside… I mean, it’s nothing really crazy. I also enjoy spending time with the people who are important to me. This is a big thing for me.
JI: What kind of dog do you have?
NS: I have a labrador dog mix. She’s a big, lanky dog.
JI: It seems like a lot of the offensive linemen I speak to have these larger dogs.
NS: I mean I wouldn’t hate it [having a smaller dog], but yes. I have a big dog but she still feels smaller to me because I’m just so much bigger.
JI: Are you more of an Xbox or PlayStation type, or do you do PC?
NS: I’ve been an Xbox guy my whole life but just like a month ago I got a PS5 so I switched.
JI: How’s the move going for you?
NS: [There’s] not really a difference. The PS5 was cute, 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 recently played Chel (NHL) on PlayStation. It took a little getting used to the controls. What games are you playing?
NS: I love Chel. I used to play chel all the time in college with my roommates. Now I only play Call of Duty and Madden because I don’t have Chel that console yet, but yeah pretty much all sports games and then Call of Duty.
JI: Did it just so happen that you’ll see yourself in Madden soon?
NS: It definitely started in 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 gets crazy when you can actually see it.
JI: Let’s say I’m the NFL general manager. What would I get if I named you to my team?
NS: You would get someone who is a leader and someone who is accountable and dependable and someone who will sell themselves to the organization.