SAN ANTONIO - Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be the second time West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer tight end Nick O'Leary has played on national television, but he learned a valuable lesson from the first experience.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound O'Leary played both ways, punted and returned kicks in a 26-22 loss to Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, though he was best remembered for a gesture he made to the opposing crowd that brought on a two-game suspension from the Florida High School Athletic Association.
O'Leary apologized for his actions and now knows what advice he will give his fellow Army All-Americans about playing on a national stage.
"Not to stick the middle finger up when you're on live TV," O'Leary said.
And, being more serious about his advice on the national TV spotlight, O'Leary said: "All these players out here have earned a lot of respect if they've gotten to this point, so I'll just (tell them) to play their hardest."
O'Leary is ranked as the nation's top tight end prospect and the No. 21 player overall, so he has little more to prove. His goals this week are to enjoy the experience.
"I'm just going to go out there, play my best and have fun," O'Leary said. "I'll meet a bunch of players that I've never met and play against a lot of great players out here."
Although O'Leary is still undecided on his college future, he has no plans to make his selection during the telecast of the Army Bowl on Saturday. He has a final four of Florida State, LSU, Alabama and Miami. He has visited each school at least once, but is not ruling out return trips during the next month.
"I'm just going to wherever I can whenever I can," O'Leary said. "If I can go to those schools again I'll go out there, but there's nothing they can really do to beat each other."
Except for recently hired Miami coach Al Golden, the head coaches from each of O'Leary's final schools have had their in-home visits with the four-star tight end.
"I've had Florida State come in, I've had Alabama come in and I've had LSU come in," O'Leary said. "It was good because they got to meet my parents - that was the main thing."
O'Leary expects his final decision to be rendered on National Signing Day. Florida State is the school widely considered the team to beat for the West Palm Beach native, and O'Leary understands why.
"I have shown the most attention to them," he said, "but they're pretty even right now."