About three weeks ago, LSU pitcher Nick Storz walked into Ed Orgeron’s office inside the football operations building.
Storz, a redshirt sophomore right-hander, had wanted to play college football since he arrived in Baton Rouge. The idea grew in his mind for years. He regretted sitting out his junior season of high school and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, so he arranged a meeting with the football coach.
“I heard you're interested in playing football for us,” Orgeron told Storz.
“Yeah,” Storz said. “I would love to.”
Orgeron gave Storz a chance to make the team this fall as a tight end. Storz, who’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 262 pounds, started voluntary workouts last week. He has participated in player-led practices and virtual meetings with coaches, committing himself to the demands of a college football player.
Storz will try to play both sports the rest of his LSU career. If he makes the football team, Storz said NCAA rules require him to forfeit his baseball scholarship. He will need to earn one as a football player.
“I always wanted to play for the LSU football team, but at the same time, I wanted to give LSU baseball all my attention and it's fair shot," Storz said. “I also didn't want to have the regret of not doing this.”
Redshirt sophomore pitcher Nick Storz has joined the LSU football team for voluntary workouts as a tight end, and his high school highlights show why he might contribute this season.
The idea of a pitcher suddenly trying to play Division I college football might sound outlandish, but Storz didn’t make this decision for publicity. Storz joined his first organized football league when he was about 10 years old. His cousins and uncles played football. Storz loved every part of the sport, from physical run blocks to one-handed catches. He missed the game.
"I'm not doing this thing for a social experiment," Storz said.
Storz played baseball and football through his sophomore year of high school at Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn, New York. He received an offer to play football at Miami (FL), but he quit the sport before football recruiting went any further, choosing instead to focus on baseball.
Storz regretted the decision. Though he became a highly-touted baseball player with professional opportunities and college scholarship offers, he wished he had kept playing football. He rejoined Poly Prep’s football team late in the summer before his senior year.
Poly Prep, a small private school, used Storz at tight end and defensive end. He towered most of the players. During his senior season, Storz pulled down a one-handed catch over the middle of the field and showed an ability to adjust his body in mid-air. He lined up on the outside and near the line of scrimmage. He enjoyed run blocking.
“He was a big target,” Poly Prep coach Kevin Fountaine said. “If he had more of a pure thrower, he would've done a lot more for us.”
College football coaches recruited Storz when they came to see his teammate, future Tennessee Titans first-round pick Isaiah Wilson, but he stuck with a future in baseball. Still, when Storz attended an LSU football game during his official visit, his love for the sport nagged at him.
“Damn,” Storz said, “I want to be running under those field-goal posts and playing on this field.”
College football took the next step toward playing the 2020 season Wednesday when the NCAA approved an extended preseason plan designed to make up for practices lost during nationwide stay-at-home orders earlier this year.
The desire remained entrenched in Storz’ mind while he spent two years recovering from shoulder and back injuries. Finally healthy this spring, Storz recorded a 1.04 ERA over 8⅔ innings during LSU’s shortened season.
Before LSU began voluntary workouts June 9, Storz decided to pursue his football dreams. He called baseball coach Paul Mainieri about three weeks ago and asked for permission to split time between the sports. Mainieri supported the idea, and Storz sent Orgeron game film from his high school career.
“I'm all for it,” Mainieri said.
If Storz makes the team, he will join a deep tight end room headlined by freshman Arik Gilbert, the highest-rated tight end recruit in 247Sports history. Storz would then spend the fall focused on football while he keeps his arm loose during his spare time so he can pitch out of the bullpen next spring.
“We think we got a player that can contribute,” Orgeron said. “We're happy to have him.”
The most football-related activity Storz had done in three years was play catch on the beach before he started voluntary workouts. He has now spent the past two weeks training, catching passes three times a week during player-led practices and studying route concepts and blocking schemes in Zoom meetings.
The workouts differ a bit from ones performed by baseball players — pitchers typically don’t bench press — but Storz has embraced the change. He thinks the lifts will help his pitching become more explosive. And besides, Storz will do whatever’s necessary to earn a spot on the football team. He doesn’t want to end his career wondering what he might've accomplished.
“Whatever it takes for me to get ready, I'm willing to do,” Storz said. “I'm all in.”