DUBLIN, Ohio – Nicco Fertitta is used to standing out.
Fertitta has early scholarship offers from Utah and Hawaii. Notre Dame is the program he'd like to earn an opportunity from this fall.
He did so in two ways this past weekend at the Football University Top Gun – High School Camp, held in the Columbus suburbs.
First, he did so with his gear.
The rising junior cornerback out of national powerhouse Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman wore his bright orange team shorts to camp on Friday, and come Saturday he was back on the field with a bright-red FBU shirt.
Second, he did so with his play.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Fertitta is a fluid athlete with outstanding lateral quickness. He’s a physical football player that plays safety during the falls but moved to cornerback at this camp.
Following the FBU Top Gun camp, Fertitta heads back home where everyone in the community notices him. His father is billionaire Lorenzo Fertitta, co-founder of Station Casinos and in more mainstream circles, is recognized by the public as the Co-Owner/CEO of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
For the younger Fertitta, with the many blessings also brings the many haters.
“Everything I do, everyone is saying your dad got you that, your dad did you this,” Fertitta said. “I’ve worked for everything. I just let it roll off.
Fertitta is a physical football player with impressive lateral quickness.
“There is no better feeling than to prove to people that I’m not some little kid that got here because of his family. I’m here because I can play football and I can work hard and people can tell out here.”
The elder Fertitta, for the most part, went unnoticed while in town watching the Top Gun camp. Wearing Bishop Gorman t-shirts and a Villanova hat in support of his sons, (Lorenzo Fertitta is a freshman defensive back for the Wildcats) he blended in with the parents and coaches looking on.
“Nicco has been able to experience a lot of things in his life whether it’s travel or go to business meetings with me or being exposed to the athletes we have in the UFC and Dana White and some of the people we have around us,” Fertitta said of his son. He played football at Bishop Gorman as well. “I think you see that leadership on the field. He’s one of the kids Bishop Gorman, a nationally ranked team, is looking towards as a junior to really step up and be a leader on the team.”
By watching and learning from his dad on a daily basis, Fertitta sees what it takes to be a leader and applies it to what he’s doing.
“He’s just nonstop with everything that he does,” Nicco said. “He’s always hardworking. There is not a moment in the day where he’s not on the phone or on a business call or at the office late nights working so he can support our family.
“He’s definitely my role model and I want to be somewhere near close to the man he is. It kind of generates to me being on the field with that attitude of never giving up and always working to be the hardest, best competitor out there.”
Fertitta has done some boxing growing up but his interest in the gridiron far outweighed his desire to play other sports.
“Fourth grade for sure was when I realized that,” he said. “There is nothing better than going at someone and knocking someone out. There is no better feeling. And I like the team aspect of football. There is no man by himself. Everyone works together.”
This fall, Fertitta is working towards trying to land a scholarship from Notre Dame. He got a chance to visit the Irish campus during the spring and sees the program and school as a very good fit.
“That’s definitely the top school,” Fertitta said, adding he’s being recruited by Notre Dame assistant Tony Alford. “Football isn’t life. You have to have life after football. If I get a degree from there, it’s education first, I’m set for life.”
There is also the major stage of college football in South Bend.
“A winning program obviously, a good education and Notre Dame is a place where I can express my religion.”
Fertitta’s father would be more than okay with Notre Dame as the next destination.
“Notre Dame, going to the campus is an experience in itself,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s going to be Nicco’s choice. He wants to play big-time football. I think one of the things that’s interesting about Nicco is it’s not a situation where he has to stay close to home. He can go wherever he wants because we can go watch him play wherever he is. There is no boundaries. I’m encouraging him, whether it’s the Pac 12 or even looking on the East Coast or wherever it might be.”
Besides Notre Dame, Fertitta has taken recent visits to Utah for its spring game and he also checked out Colorado. This fall he plans to get back to Notre Dame and Utah for games.
Outside of his family, one of Fertitta’s biggest supporters is former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Vitor Belfort. The two have built a connection over the years, and Fertitta keeps him updated on the latest with his football. When they occasionally talk recruiting, Belfort does not have a rooting interest on the next level.
“He doesn’t really know much,” Fertitta laughed. “He’s Brazilian, but wherever he would want me to go is somewhere that is probably Catholic.”
A two-year contributor to the Bishop Gorman varsity, Fertitta is ready for a breakout junior campaign. In between the white lines, he knows being the son of Lorenzo Fertitta is irrelevant. It’s all about his ability and the plays he can make.
“It’s really humbling just knowing that nothing is given in life and that I have to work for everything,” Nicco stated. “In football, nothing has ever been given to me. I have to work for everything."