SOUTH BEND, Ind -- Troy Niklas is among eight players up for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end and an honor given to Tyler Eifert last year.
While Niklas may not win the award (Texas Tech's Jace Amaro has 92 catches for 1,157 yards -- that's tough to beat), he's developed into an elite red zone weapon while improving his blocking skills.
"I think the biggest thing is just that I'm doing things right, so it's just kind of an affirmation to keep on the track I'm going," Niklas said of being a semifinalist for the award.
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Recently, Notre Dame has churned out tight ends who've gone on to play at the next level. Before Eifert (Bengals), Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), John Carlson (Seahawks) and Anthony Fasano all starred in South Bend.
Only one of those players (Eifert) won the Mackey Award, but Niklas has used that lineage of tight ends as a motivating factor.
"I'd say it's good pressure," Niklas said. "You want to be the best and it's cool to see that other people have got to that level, and you just kinda want to be there also."