Article by Kaci Demarest, Arizona Hotshots Content Manager
Video by Caroline Zukowsky, Arizona Hotshots Content Production Manager
TEMPE — Long snapper Nick Dooley’s career will come full circle back to the Valley of the Sun when he suits up for the Arizona Hotshots this February.
At a staggering 6 feet 7 inches tall, Nick looks like he belongs on a basketball court rather than a football field. From young age, both him and his brother, Matt Dooley, picked up the game. As the younger sibling, Nick initially wasn’t a fan of the game because he always had to play up to his brother’s age group.
“There was always that competitive edge, going to training, always wanting to be better than him,” Nick said. “It was a healthy relationship as far as being competitive goes.”
When Nick wasn’t on the field, he was at the firehouse where his father, John Dooley, worked as an engineer for the Phoenix Fire Department.
“He would come down and run all over the trucks,” John said. “He’d climb in the tiller bucket. He loved it.”
The long snapper position wasn’t the first one that Nick picked up. It was through his connections at the firehouse that he came to learn the position.
John’s captain at the fire station saw the Dooley boys size and suggested to John that they check out long snapping because his own son was playing the position for Arizona State.
Nick started learning from videos on YouTube and eventually started training with a coach locally. During his senior year of high school at Scottsdale Christian Academy, he went on to compete in the Rubio Long Snapping competition in Las Vegas and even won the whole event in early 2012.
It wasn’t until the end of his senior year that he was offered a full-ride scholarship to University of Texas El-Paso to play for the Miners. From there, he went on to have a professional stint with the Minnesota Vikings.
Nick almost decided to hang the cleats up in his early football days. But during his junior year, something clicked for him.
“I started really falling in love with the game of football, early high school, but really that year specifically,” Nick said. “I just loved doing it.”
His excitement was put to a severe test when adversity struck during a postseason high school game.
“I was really having the game of my career.”
Scottsdale Christian Academy was in the first round playoff game against Valley Christian. It was the first season Nick was playing both sides of the ball. During a play, Nick went to make a tackle when one of his teammates was blocked into the back of him, taking out his knee. Nick fractured his femur and tore his ACL.
“The surgeon that night told him that it looked like a bomb went off in there,” John said.
The doctor told Nick that he’d never play football again. His father comforted him and told him not to believe what the surgeon said. Nick’s femur was screwed back into place, and shortly after, his ACL was repaired. Eight months after the horrific injury, Nick was putting the pads on once again and played every game of his senior season.
“That doctor told him, not only do I think we’ll see you playing on Saturdays, I think we’ll see you playing on Sundays,” John said.
While Nick continues to work ahead of mini camp and the start of the season in February, he sticks around the place where he grew up— the fire station. He trains with his dad at least once a week either snapping the ball or working out, like flipping tires and pounding the sledge hammer.
“I’m thankful for the Alliance and opportunity to play at a professional level and keep pursuing the game I love,” Nick said.
The opportunity to play for the Hotshots is special to Nick not just because his dad is a fireman, but because he’ll be able to play in front of his friends and family again.
“He has the heart, he has a competitive nature about him,” John said. ”He has a great work ethic. Nothing has really come easy to him, except his size.”