Former Penn State kicker Nick DeAngelis, a native of Ramsey, NJ, harnessed the viral power of TikTok for a chance to score some field goals at Detroit Lions’ Ford Field on Saturday.
He’s built a following of 46,800 fans with stud-splitting videos, and he’s lobbied NFL teams for a chance to kick their stadiums with captions like “Day 7 trying to kick things off.” ‘obtain [an] NFL team for letting me make a video in their stadium.
The Lions social media team recently responded and agreed to host him: So @ndeangelis04, as he is known on TikTok, will be launched from the Ford Field turf on Saturday.
“I’m just looking for a host anywhere,” DeAngelis, 25, said by phone Thursday. “In the past, people said I couldn’t play in Division I, that I should quit. I will not give up. I just need someone to look at me once.
Saturday’s showcase is not a tryout with the Lions. But DeAngelis hopes one of his kicks one day will open the right pair of eyes and fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo (Ridgewood, NJ), a former Georgia Southern standout, memorably burst onto the national radar in 2016 with a viral video of Koo doing a backflip while performing a trial placement without holder.
Koo just signed a five-year, $24.5 million contract extension with the Falcons in March.
“That’s kind of how I modeled it,” DeAngelis said. “He had videos of him kicking and turning around afterwards. You just have to put your foot in the door. That’s all I have to do.
The Lions have confirmed to the Daily News that their social media team arranged Saturday’s stadium tour for DeAngelis. Detroit’s social media team responded to one of DeAngelis’ recent videos with a message from their official account: “Maybe we’ll talk in a few weeks?”
Then the team followed up with another: “DMs are now open.”
DeAngelis eventually connected directly via text with someone from Detroit’s social team to confirm his visit. But surprisingly, he paid for his own expenses and flew to Detroit on Friday afternoon with no further assurances that it was real.
“I just need someone to see me,” he said, explaining why it was worth it. “I hope something will come of it.”
DeAngelis isn’t just doing this for himself. Her father, Adam, is battling cancer. He says his father, mother Christina and brother are his biggest supporters and the reasons he fights.
“My dad talked to the schools, did everything he could to make my dream come true,” said DeAngelis, who has coached and trained local athletes. “My mom kept me positive and never let me give up.”
DeAngelis had mainly played basketball and football all his life until the spring of his freshman year at Ramsey High School. Then one day, his schoolmate Anthony Popolo, a lineman and long snapper on the football team, asked for help catching snaps.
DeAngelis obliged and then fired a couple of field goals, just for kicks.
“I put the ball on my shoe and kicked it, knocking them out from 50 yards out,” he said. “We took videos, sent them to our high school coach, and I played senior.”
They went on to become the first team in all leagues, setting a school record for goals scored (7 of 9) and converting their extra 38 points. Now he’s kicking Ford Field.
“Once he made the commitment, he was full steam ahead,” Popolo, 24, who played at Division-III Juniata College, Pennsylvania, said in a phone interview Friday. “We went to a lot of showcases and trainers together and he took advantage of that.”
DeAngelis started out for two years at Division III William Paterson College near his home after initially signing on to Monmouth as a favorite extra. Then he transferred to Penn State and was one of three extras on James Franklin’s 2017 Nittany Lions roster.
It was Saquon Barkley’s 11-2 Fiesta Bowl-winning Penn State team that moved up to No. 2 nationally and finished No. 8 in the nation. However, DeAngelis had to sit out this season as a transfer and was unable to transfer enough credits from Paterson to be eligible from 2018.
Then the pandemic hit during his 2020 draft year. DeAngelis’ agent at the time told him he had spoken with the Lions. Nothing materialized. But DeAngelis wasn’t giving up.
He went to coach Gary Zauner’s annual special teams camp in Arizona in 2020 and attended the HUB free agent camp in Los Angeles last October. He worked alongside pros, including Koo.
Nothing has promoted his talent, however, like his own stampede on TikTok.
“Previously, you just shared your game strip via [the highlight application] Hudl,” said Popolo, an underwriter at Webster Bank in Manhattan. “But now social media has become such a tool in many ways. The coaches are on it… It’s incredible. [Nick] is so deserving because of his work ethic, his perseverance, the time he puts into it.
Who knows if Saturday’s showcase at Ford Field, pasted on DeAngelis’ TikTok page for the world to see, will prompt an NFL team to call him in for a practice. Crazier things have happened.
“I always say if I ever do it, we’ll do a movie,” DeAngelis said.
He seems pretty good at it.