CHARLOTTE – Of all the chatter around a draft prospect's competitive nature, Nick Saldiveri may have one of the more convincing – and unusual – arguments to his credit.
The 6-foot-6 Old Dominion offensive lineman (and product of nearby Parkwood High) generated a peculiar kind of buzz this week when a video showcased him gaining almost 10 pounds after chowing down at an all-you-can-eat meat buffet.
In the clip (part of FOX Sports' "Big Boys Club O-Line Draft Academy"), Saldiveri claimed victory in a friendly contest against four other OL prospects – Northwestern's Peter Skoronski, TCU's Steve Avila, Maryland's Jaelyn Duncan, and Michigan's Olu Oluwatimi. The series follows top offensive line prospects through the pre-draft process and is in its third season this year.
"They knew it was going to be fun; it's a bunch of big dudes trying to have an eating contest," Saldiveri said. "They knew it was fun to mic us up, weigh us in before, and it was a really good production. Like, I wasn't going to go in there and not win. What kind of man would that make me? I had to represent Waxhaw well."
Saldiveri estimated he downed 10-20 cuts of various meats (he lost count) at Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian-style steakhouse in Plano. And while he hadn't formally trained for an eating competition before, Saldiveri said he and his college friends at ODU would often partake in all-you-can-eat sushi at Volcano Sushi in Norfolk, Virginia, and "run them dry."
"Everyone after that video was texting me like, 'Volcano prepared you for this,'" he said. "That's the only preparation I've had, nothing crazy. But I'm just a big dude who can eat, pretty much. Ten pounds is crazy, though."
Saldiveri didn't keep any of those quick gains; he said the jump from 317.4 pounds to 326.9 pounds in one sitting was erased by the next day when he weighed in around 313.
"My trainer would be able to tell you how that happened," he said. "I don't know."
He filmed the series in Texas while training with offensive line "guru" Duke Manyweather, and returned home to North Carolina on Wednesday to participate in the Panthers' local pro day, a chance for draft prospects from around the Carolinas to work out before coaches, scouts, and executives. He worked extensively with Panthers offensive line coach James Campen during on-field drills at Bank of America Stadium.
Before the video gained traction, Saldiveri had already garnered pre-draft attention. He earned invites to the Reese's Senior Bowl and scouting combine in Indianapolis after claiming second-team All-Sun Belt honors in his final year at ODU.
He impressed at the Senior Bowl, playing at various spots along the interior offensive line, and he went on to stand out at the combine. In Indianapolis, Saldiveri finished among the top 10 offensive linemen in the 20-yard shuttle, broad jump, and the vertical, and he figures to be a mid-round pick in a few weeks.
"It's a lifelong dream, just being able to do any of this stuff," Saldiveri said. "Being able to come out here to Charlotte today to do a local pro day, you've just got to be grateful, to be honest. You can get lost in it for sure; you can get lost in the process, and the days get long, weeks get long. But you've just got to be appreciative because not everybody gets this opportunity. There are so many people from Waxhaw who would want to be in my shoes."
The meat-eating competition was part of Saldiveri's competitive resume. He'll talk about downing 10 pounds of meat like it was a foot race or a tug-of-war – another win to tally.
"That's just how I operate," Saldiveri said. "I'm just a competitor. … I wasn't going to go in there and lose that competition. If you watch my tape, and you just talk to me, you just talk to anybody that knows me, you're going to know that I'm a competitor. Going there was just another opportunity. Like, that's just another day in the office with being a competitor."
Gobbling up enough meat to put on the weight of a small animal is one way to show it, and Saldiveri made the most of that moment.
Draft prospects from around the Carolinas came to Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday for a pro day workout before this month's NFL Draft.