Street: How do you think football has shaped your Penn experience overall?
Nick Demes: Well other than [football] being the 30–40 hours a week I spend on it… it's kind of like a full–time job. It’s been something that I really love to do and it’s definitely not the typical Penn experience. I don’t think a lot of people at Penn have a great understanding of what the student athlete, football player, varsity athlete life is like. I’ve really enjoyed it. The guys on the team are my best friends in the world and anyone on any team would probably say that.
Street: How do you balance being a student and also being an athlete full–time?
ND: It's tough. I was just talking to my friends about this last night. When you’re in season, even small tasks seem like monumental obstacles to overcome. You just sit down and your body hurts and you’ve been thinking about the playbook, the opponent and the prep for the game week. You go back to working on class stuff and it’s like, my brain can’t even wrap my head around this.
Street: Well thanks for doing this [interview].
ND: Oh yeah, absolutely. Any time I can get my name in the newspaper. I’m an offensive lineman so they don’t write about me very much. I’ll take all the opportunities I can get. (Ed note: Nick was recently named a semifinalist for a national scholar–athlete award. So you should probably check that out here.)
Street: Are there many athletes that are also mechanical engineers or is it a pretty small minority?
ND: Yeah, my boy Dan Harris is on the tennis team. It’s definitely a minority within a minority. We’ve got to stick together and bitch about our schedules to the other. I’ve made it work somehow, Dan’s made it work somehow… He’s going through his masters course right now, too, so I don’t know how he does it. It’s quite a challenge to take on and I’ve got a semester–and–a–half, so I’m almost there.
Street: How are you about keeping up with the NFL?
ND: I’m a huge Bears fan which is a miserable existence. I’ve had to deal with a lot of crap. Yeah, I definitely keep up… I kind of grew up around sports my entire life [and] that was definitely something to adjust to at Penn. It’s just a lot of people who have no interest in sports. I was actually out helping out the Red and Blue Crew on Locust Walk the other day passing out fliers for the fan fest that’s coming up on Saturday before the game, and people were just walking right by and completely making eye contact with me and then avoiding me and running out of the way. I was like, 'It’s not that big of a deal, come tailgate, they’re giving you free beer and food' to watch a football game.
Street: Do you think athletes get a bad rap at Penn?
ND: This was a question that Sam Mattis answered last year, too. There’s a lot of people I meet for the first time and I know how they thought of me before they met me, and I was like, 'Oh they think I’m an athlete who is stupid.' Someone at this school who I knew in high school made a comment to me and my friend, 'Oh athletes are just taking away spots from qualified students.' You kind of see them sleepy–eyed in class and dressed in the Penn Athletics sweats and you think, 'All their energy is going towards their sport.' And most of it is, probably, but they’re also here to do the same thing every other student is.
Street: You said people were like avoiding you on Locust. Do you think that they're weirded out that you’re an athlete or…?
ND: No, no, no, it might have just been rush hour and I went up to them and I was like, 'Hey we’re playing a football game on Saturday, ever heard of the sport? Ever been to a tailgate before?' They just kind of walk around and don’t say anything to me. It’s definitely kind of disappointing that more of the student body isn’t into it, because there’s guys like Werner Glass and the Red and Blue Crew and that whole crew that really want to support Penn athletics and have great student sections. I can tell you firsthand having a huge student section at a game, at the Princeton game last year for example, and at the Cornell game where we clinched the championship, it makes a huge difference for us. I think it’s a great opportunity to bring everyone together, when there’s so much divisiveness on campus. Stop worrying about OCR and all the social issues that we all need to solve right now. Maybe we can just get away from it for a second and go watch a football game.
Street: What’s been your favorite non–football experience?
ND: I mean Derby Days with Sigma Chi is always a blast. It’s kind of just a week of debauchery and great times and you gotta love that. I’ve been a part of Friars since last semester and that’s been an awesome time, too. I’ve really enjoyed kinda branching out. [For] three years in my Penn experience I was kind of siloed in the football team, siloed in Engineering, and then siloed in Sigma Chi which was a lot of other athletes. Kind of branching out in the past year has been very rewarding.
Street: If you are what you eat, what are you?
ND: So I have a good answer on this one. I just recently completed the Chipotle Rewards Special, which I’m super proud of. I ate 11 burritos a month for three straight months. Which is probably one of the fattest things I’ve ever done but I get six more weeks of being a fat person and then I’m a regular person. I just completed that and I got a nice 20–person catering for free. We had an awesome offensive lineman dinner the other night, so I guess I’m a Chipotle burrito.
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
ND: Engineers and those with robust social lives.
Street: What was your first screen name?
ND: First screen name. Oh man. I’ll tell you my current screen name, because… bringing up AIM in fifth grade, that’s just sour memories for me. Current screen name: air_brisket. Check me out on Instagram.
Street: Air Brisket? What does that mean?
ND: So I’m into like barbecuing and I got a smoker two years ago.
Street: At school?
ND: Yeah I have it in the backyard at the Stoop—best off–campus houses at Penn. [The] football houses on 42nd St. 208, 210. You gotta shout out the Stoop in your article. But yeah, we got a smoker in the backyard and I’d do briskets and pork shoulders and ribs.
Street: What’s one question we forgot to ask you?
ND: One question you forgot to ask me… Are the Quakers gonna win this weekend?
Street: Well what’s the answer?