By Mallory Allen
GREEN BAY – “What’s meant to be will always find a way.”
For 25-year-old Green Bay Blizzard kicker Nick Jaworski, these words act as a mantra that sums up the last decade of his life.
In some ways, Jaworski’s story is similar to that of many other athletes – he’s had to overcome obstacles and believe in himself, even when no one else did.
And yet, while an abundance of hard work and perseverance certainly helped propel the Wisconsin native from a scrawny, 92-pound high school soccer player into a member of a professional football team, there’s no doubt in Jaworski’s mind that fate has shined down on him along the way, too.
“We want to see you kick”
Jaworski grew up in Racine, located in the southeastern corner of Wisconsin, as the middle child of five boys.
An athlete early on in life, Jaworski had a passion for basketball and started playing soccer competitively when he was three years old.
However, it wasn’t until the fall of Jaworski’s junior year at Union Grove High School that he kicked a football for the first time.
“I was captain of the soccer team,” he said. “We were on one side of the field, and the football team was warming up on the other side. The captain of the football team said, ‘Hey, Nick, come over here. We want to see you kick.’”
Jaworski agreed, then lined up and kicked a 40-yard field goal straight through the uprights.
Union Grove’s head football coach immediately told Jaworski he should join the team, but the school didn’t allow students to play two sports during one season.
Hooked on the idea, Jaworski petitioned the school’s principal and athletic director for months to allow him to do both, to no avail.
It wasn’t until his senior year they gave in, and Jaworski became the first student at Union Grove to compete on two athletic teams during the same season.
Four months after attending his first kicking camp, Jaworski was already ranked in the nation’s top 100.
“It was then I said to myself, ‘Alright, I’m doing this thing. I’ve come way too far to stop now. I’m pursuing this,’” he said.
All signs point to…
Jaworski applied to the University of Minnesota and connected with the school’s football coaches, who said they’d love to have him on their team – he just needed to be accepted.
Months went by without hearing back, so Jaworski called the admission’s office… only to find out his application had been lost and Minnesota had finished filling its freshman class.
“I got into Marquette University, but they don’t have a football program,” Jaworski said. “It’s an amazing school, and I would have loved to go there, but I wanted to pursue my football dreams.”
That left him standing at a major fork in the road, unsure which path to take; but as it turned out, he didn’t need to decide – the answer came to him.
While working out at his gym in Racine, he saw a man wearing a Mississippi State University (MSU) T-shirt.
Later that night, he went to Panda Express and a patron turned the channel on the TV inside the restaurant to an MSU women’s basketball game.
The next day, while standing in his school’s lunch line, a teacher recommended Jaworski attend MSU.
When he Googled schools with cheapest out-of-state tuition, MSU was second on the list – and paperwork Jaworski received from a camp showed its football team needed a kicker.
Jaworski said he wanted one more sign that pointed toward the university – he was certain it would come.
A few days later, at 2:30 a.m., he received a prank call about a girl with the last name Prescott – the same last name as MSU’s quarterback Dak Prescott, who now plays in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys.
The next morning, Jaworski told his parents he wanted to attend MSU.
Living the fantasy?
Fate led the self-described “undersized” 135-pound Jaworski to Starkville, Mississippi, but one big problem remained: he still had to make the football team.
“I was a true walk-on, not a preferred walk-on, so I didn’t have a roster spot,” Jaworski said. “I kicked out of my mind in my try-out. Later, I got a call from the coach saying, ‘Hey, come up to my office.’ I went to sit down and he said, ‘What are you doing? Practice starts in 30 minutes, go get your equipment.’”
Jaworski said he remembers feeling shocked, dizzy and like he should pinch himself.
“I lied and said my stomach hurt and that I had to go to the bathroom,” he said. “I actually went outside, called my mom and cried for 30 minutes. That was an unbelievable moment I’ll never forget.”
And yet, as his freshman season progressed, Jaworski said something didn’t feel right.
“I realized when I was at MSU, my true dream wasn’t playing Division I football,” he said. “It was playing Division I football in front of my parents.”
Due to financial constraints and the distance between Racine and Starkville (approximately a 12-hour drive), Jaworski’s mother and father were unable to attend all but one of his games that year.
“Everyone else would be coming through the tunnel blowing kisses to their parents and tearing up seeing them in the crowd, and I never experienced that,” Jaworski said.
Reverting to his original plan, Jaworski decided to transfer to Minnesota after completing his freshman year at MSU.
He reconnected with Minnesota’s coaches, who again said they’d love to have him play for the Golden Gophers.
Then, a major scandal rocked the university: 10 football players were suspended in connection to the sexual assault of a female student, and most of Minnesota’s coaching staff – the coaches who had promised Jaworski a spot on the team – was fired.
Confident in his abilities, Jaworski tried out for the squad on two separate occasions and said he kicked lights out both times.
He went 10-for-10 during his first try-out and the second time he was 3-for-4 on 54-yard field goals.
Up to that point, his career-best had been 53 yards.
And yet, despite Jaworski’s impressive performances, it wasn’t enough in the eyes of Minnesota’s head coach.
“I got a text from him that said, ‘You weren’t good enough for us,’ he said. “I screenshot it and put the picture in a frame by my bedside. I look at it every night.”
New opportunities arise
Jaworski didn’t play one snap of football during his time at Minnesota, but he refused to give up, training individually instead.
After graduating from Minnesota in 2019 with a degree in Sports Management, Jaworski signed with an agent and played one season in a semi-professional football league, where he won Rookie of the Year and Special Teams MVP.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaworski said, “I focused every day on kicking, gaining muscle and being a better person. Every day, I kept the faith.”
As 2022 rolled around, it looked like his patience had paid off and he had finally gotten his break.
Jaworski was set to sign a contract with the Spokane Shock, a member of the same professional indoor football league (IFL) the Green Bay Blizzard belongs to, but the deal fell through.
“I was crushed,” he said. “That was my dream, and I thought it would be my only chance. But my agent reminded me everything happens for a reason, and she was right. A week later, I signed with the Blizzard – and two days after that, Spokane got kicked out of the IFL. It was fate.”
Meant to be
Jaworski has faced his fair share of hurdles, but he said he’s grateful the up-and-down road led him to Green Bay – the only city in his home state with an IFL team.
“My parents bought season tickets, so they’re at every Blizzard game,” he said. “My brothers can come to watch me play, too. I’m able to look up in the stands and see my mom with a big smile on her face and see my dad giving me a thumbs-up when I make a field goal. I’m family-oriented, so having them at my games makes this experience more special to me.”
Jaworski said being a kicker in the IFL is different – and in most cases, more difficult – than in traditional football, but he’s finding his footing.
He said his favorite memory of the season so far involves a young fan named Connor, who caught the ball used in Jaworski’s first-ever professional field goal during the team’s home opener at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon.
“This little kid comes up to me after the game with a huge smile and says, ‘Can you sign this ball? I caught it when you kicked it,’” Jaworski said. “I couldn’t bring myself to ask for it back, so I signed the ball and took a picture with him while he was holding it and told him to take care of it for me.”
Fast forward a few weeks later, and Connor found Jaworski after the Blizzard’s second home game.
He was holding a football and a picture frame with the photo of himself and Jaworski taken at the last game inside of it.
“He handed them both to me and said, ‘I want you to have your ball back because it’s going to mean more to you than it will to me,’” Jaworski said. “I felt terrible – the balls mean everything to these kids. I didn’t want to take it away. It turns out, (Connor) caught another ball from another field goal I kicked during our second game, so I signed that one for him, too. He kept it, and I got my first field goal ball back.”
Now, Jaworski has that picture of himself and his young fan sitting on the dresser next to his bed.
Jaworski said he isn’t sure what the next step in his football career will be – whether it’s continuing with the Blizzard or playing for another IFL team – but his ultimate goal is to reach the NFL.
Wherever he ends up, Jaworski said he’ll continue working hard, believing in himself and doing all he can to prove his doubters wrong.
As his journey through life continues, he’ll remember these words: What’s meant to be will always find a way.
“If you put your mind to something, it can happen,” Jaworski said. “It sounds super cliché, but it’s true. I know the day I give up would be the day I proved everyone who has told me ‘No’ to be correct, and I don’t want that day to ever come. If it’s your dream, chase after it. If I never play a game in the NFL, then so be it. But the man I look at in the mirror every day has more drive than ever and has overcome so much adversity. I’m damn proud of him.”