Syracuse offense finds consistency in Nick Provo

The Florida-native prepares for a homecoming showdown against South Florida, who hopes to rebound from a four-game losing streak against a similarly struggling Syracuse squad.

Don’t look now, but Nick Provo, the starting tight end for the Syracuse Orange, is making a case for offensive Most Valuable Player.

Consider this: He has 39 catches on the season for 410 yards. He is second on the team in both categories. His six receiving touchdowns currently lead the team. He’s responsible for more touchdowns than anyone not named Ryan Nassib and currently has the same amount of touchdowns as Antwon Bailey.

Photo: Sterling Boin
Provo (80) and running back Antwon Bailey tie for the team lead in touchdowns scored by a non-quarterback with six each.

With these kinds of stats, it’s easy to see why Provo is one of the top offensive players for Syracuse this season. He will have to bring out his top game against the Bulls from South Florida on Friday if Syracuse hopes to win. The Bulls are currently riding a four-game losing streak, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Rutgers last weekend, but hope to snap it against an inconsistent Orange team. 

Of course, Provo’s more than ready to meet the challenge.

“This is the team that every year we go against, that I would like to play my best game (against),” Provo said. “You play all the guys from Florida.” 

Provo, a resident of West Palm Beach, FL, knows about that Florida tradition, as he grew up in that hotbed of high school football. During his senior season for John I. Leonard High School, Provo snagged 39 receptions for 756 yards and eight touchdowns. He also received offers from some of the schools in the region.

However, Provo decided to leave the comforts of Florida and head north, to Syracuse. Having his mother and other family live nearby helped make the Orange his top choice.

“The big thing was with my grandfather,” Provo said. “He always wanted to see me play and he couldn’t, because of some health issues. But, it’s good to be involved with your family and family is always there for you.”

His family didn’t see much of him during the early years of his career. Provo redshirted his first season, before spending most of his playing time on the special teams unit. Then, during his third year with the team, he had his season prematurely ended by a knee injury.

“It’s rough going through the injury part of football,” Provo said. “That was my first year of really playing.”

Since that time, Provo has become a staple of the offense. Last season, he finished with 33 catches, good for second all-time in a single season by a tight end. In fact, the only man he trailed was Chris Gedney, who fished with 34 and an All-American selection in 1992.

This season, Provo has set records in nearly every statistical category. He’s become a key force for the Orange on third down and in the red zone. For offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, having a weapon like Provo is a luxury on offense.

“It’s exciting to have a tight end that is athletic, strong and fast, because most of the time you’re going to get him on a linebacker or a safety,” Hackett said. “So that’s something when you have a guy like that, that’s kind of a matchup that you want.”

No game better exemplifies Provo’s dominance this year than his performance against West Virginia. Against the Mountaineers, he finished with six catches for 61 yards and three touchdowns, the last of which sealed the game for the Orange.  It’s a night that this tight end will never forget.

“Coach Hackett said ‘You’re going to have a bunch of touchdowns this game,’” Provo said of his performance. “At first I didn’t believe him and said, ‘Yeah, you say that all the time.’ It kind of just came together and worked out for me.”

A lot of things have been working for Provo this season. To add to his best statistical season, Provo has also been nominated for the John Mackey Award, an award given to the best tight end in the country. With a former Syracuse great as its namesake, the current tight end knows the value of the trophy.

“It’s a great honor to be associated with all those tight ends throughout the country who are great tight ends,” Provo said. “And having John Mackey, who passed away this past year, it would be great to win it and bring it back to Syracuse.”

But don’t expect Provo to start bragging about these accomplishments. He’s known by his teammates for leading through his actions rather than his words. Just ask sophomore tight end Beckett Wales, who’s been impressed with Provo’s demeanor.

“He’s really humble, which is surprising for somebody who’s accomplishing the things that he’s accomplishing,” Wales said. “He’s just a great guy to be around.”

With his current efforts on the field and action off of it, it’s not surprising that Provo hopes he can play at the next level.  However, a possible occupation after football could be a surprise to the Orange faithful.

“My uncle is a police office over in Rochester, and he’s been talking to me a lot about my degree,” Provo said.  “My major is information management and technology, and he’s been trying to get me into the FBI and doing the computer stuff, like recovery.”

In his future, he might be catching criminals. 

For now, though, Syracuse fans just want him to catch the football.

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