Advice from Uncle Donovan

ASSOCIATED PRESS Defenseman Darnell Nurse (left) could be drafted before the Flyers select at No. 11.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Defenseman Darnell Nurse (left) could be drafted before the Flyers select at No. 11.
Posted: June 19, 2013

BOSTON - From the time he was old enough to handle the hostility, Darnell Nurse used to travel to Philadelphia twice a year to see his Uncle Donovan play at Lincoln Financial Field.

Nurse, now 18, is ready to be drafted on June 30, but in a different sport than Donovan McNabb. And if the Flyers were to nab Nurse with the 11th overall pick, he knows what he would be getting himself into.

"I loved it there," said Nurse, a defenseman. "The fans are crazy. But I think that's the best part of the city - that they're crazy about their sports. They're going to let you know when you don't do so well. I think my uncle is a prime example of that.

"But at the same time, you get a lot of respect for success. If I had the opportunity to go there, that's the kind of market you want to play in."

The only question is whether Nurse still will be on the board by the time the Flyers pick. His stock has rocketed so much, from ninth in the midseason rankings to fourth in April, that Nurse was invited by the NHL to join the consensus No. 1, 2 and 3 picks in Boston to take in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews also was invited to the Cup finals in 2006. Once upon a time, so too was Chris Pronger, with whom Nurse is compared by many. The experience with Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin also included a pregame appearance on "Hockey Night in Canada.''

"It's something that you watch on TV every year, seeing the prospects," Nurse said in an interview with the Daily News before Game 3. "It's something that you want to be a part of. It's a great experience; I couldn't ask to be in a better city. But when June 30 comes around, the draft is going to take place whether I come to this, or whether I go to the combine. I'm going to get drafted because of the kind of player and person I am."

The Flyers have been drooling over Nurse for more than a season. And they've gotten a thorough peek at his skills, since he is a Sault Ste. Marie OHL teammate of Nick Cousins, the Flyers' third-round pick in 2011.

In fact, Cousins and Nurse sat next to each other in the Greyhounds' locker room. Having already been through the process, Cousins was the first to remind Nurse that there were a bevy of scouts in the stands. It's hard to miss Nurse's stout 6-4 frame. His hand swallows yours in a handshake.

The Flyers were one of 22 teams to interview Nurse at May's scouting combine in Toronto.

"They're all pretty blurred together," Nurse said. "But it was comfortable to be in there with them. The combine is a job interview. You put yourself out there to try and win a job. I enjoyed the whole process."

That's because Nurse was so well prepared for the process, thanks to his uncle. McNabb, now 36, invited Nurse over for dinner and played the role of an NHL executive for interview practice. Nurse has been training with McNabb off-ice since he was 13, when he would join McNabb's boot camp in Arizona with other NFL players.

Nurse's father, Richard, played in the CFL as a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Richard Nurse is brother to McNabb's wife, Raquel.

So, how did Darnell Nurse end up choosing hockey? Not only did Nurse grow up outside of hockey-mad Toronto, but his father thought it would be less stressful for his son's body than football.

Nurse just hasn't had much luck getting McNabb to try ice hockey, though he admits his uncle has been watching the game more.

"I've tried to get him on skates, but he won't budge," Nurse said with a laugh. "That's the next step."

Nurse said he won't tire of answering questions about his famous uncle with a Philly connection, but he will do anything to forge his own path, and make his own name.

"He's been one of the best people in my life to go to for advice. He's been a big influence in my life," Nurse explained. "I think anyone who has a family member in sports faces the same thing. But at the same time, it's a different sport and I'm trying to do my thing so that at some point, my sister's kids will be asking about me."

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