When Brandon Staley was getting off the phone with Nick Niemann, the Los Angeles Chargers head coach mentioned to his newly minted sixth-round draft pick that he’s not the team’s only connection to Sycamore High School.
“When he called me and told me I was getting drafted, he said his wife is in the Sycamore High School Athletic Hall of Fame,” Niemann said. “That’s crazy. It’s a small world.”
The former Iowa and Sycamore linebacker was drafted Saturday by the Chargers and Staley, whose first coaching gig was from 2006 to 2008 at Northern Illinois University. Also at the school at the time was volleyball player Amy Ward (now Amy Staley), a Sycamore graduate and future inductee into the school’s hall of fame.
Staley and Ward are now married. And Niemann is about to begin his NFL career with the Chargers.
“You can’t really make that stuff up,” Niemann said. “It was right after he told me I got drafted, I was a little star-struck in the moment and didn’t really process everything until after I got off the phone. He was joking with me, saying I’ll be the second-best Charger to come out of Sycamore High School. So that was funny.”
Niemann had a career-best 77 tackles for Iowa this year in an eight-game season. He finished his career with 7.5 tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown in the Holiday Bowl against USC.
Niemann was the first pick of the sixth round and the 185th overall pick.
“Based on the way the board was going, with some of the other linebackers going, I thought it was definitely a possibility I’d be getting a phone call,” Niemann said. “Still, obviously, it feels like a surreal moment. You think about getting that phone call and it doesn’t seem real because it’s been a dream for so long. It was awesome to see that California number pop up on my phone and speak to the Chargers. It was awesome.”
No current Charger linebacker is older than 26 years old. Kenneth Murray led the team in tackles last year and is only 22.
Niemann said he’s already in a group chat with the linebackers and is looking forward to joining the young room.
“I think it’s a really young room, for sure,” Niemann said. “But I think there’s a lot of playmakers in the room. It’ll be good that everyone is in the same age range and we develop into a close unit with time. I think even though some of those guys are young, they are still good players, so I can learn a lot of stuff from them.”
The NFL schedule isn’t out yet, but the Chargers will play the Kansas City Chiefs twice this year, as usual. It will mark the first time that Nick Niemann will play on a team opposite his brother, Ben Niemann.
Ben Niemann was an undrafted free agent who worked his way up to a starter for the Chiefs at linebacker. The brothers obviously won’t play on the field at the same time, but they will be on opposite sidelines for the first time in their careers. Both brothers played for Iowa and Sycamore.
“That was one of the first things Ben and I talked about,” Niemann said. “As I hung up the phone, he said yeah, I get to see you twice a year. We’ve already been giving each other a little trash talk. We’re looking forward to that matchup.”