Millikan football fans will remember Nik Lombardi from the magical 2017-18 seasons when the Rams won a pair of playoff games. Despite being one of smallest starters in the Moore League, the 5’8″ 180-pound Lombardi made more than 200 tackles from his middle linebacker position in those two seasons.
Lombardi, 19, didn’t leave his mark at Millikan because of his physical strength or power, and he’s trying to do the same thing as a prospective firefighter. He is currently studying fire science at Long Beach City College and has been in a search and rescue program for five years.
“As a firefighter, being tall really helps and I don’t have that on my side,” Lombardi said. “It’s not too far fetched for me to rely on technique. It’s something I’ve always dealt with. It’s just who I am. I deal with obstacles that a lot of other people don’t have to.”
Lombardi has always been competitive and even lied about what grade he was in so he could play with the older flag football team before high school.
“He begged for years to play football,” Nik’s dad Mike Lombardi said. “We knew we’d let him play eventually, and he ended up having great coaches at Los Al Pop Warner. I didn’t worry about him. He’s a tough kid who can take care of himself out there.”
That toughness and drive has helped Lombardi climb the ranks and begin compiling the necessary certificates to become a firefighter. This week he has an interview scheduled to become a rescue captain and help lead his volunteer group.
Lombardi was inspired to enter a life of service when he found out his great grandfather fought in World War II. His parents didn’t sign off on that career choice, so he considered attending the police academy.
“There was a career research project my freshman year (at Millikan) and I asked a family friend if I could do a ride along,” Lombardi recalls.
That family friend was Orange County Fire Battalion Chief Sean Demetropolis and the ride along on a fire engine instead of a cop car changed Lombardi’s future. He joined the search and rescue program later that year.
Lombardi was scheduled to take an EMT class this year, but COVID-19 has shut down all hands-on training. Instead of sitting around and waiting for more experience, Lombardi is one of a few LBCC and Long Beach State students who are paid interns with the Health Department. As part of the newly organized Long Beach Incident Management Team, he works out of the headquarters in a Long Beach Airport hanger.
“I started working with the IMT in early April helping supply food to testing sites and a few other places,” Lombardi said. “In late May they moved me over to the supply operations where I started bringing supplies to places like hospitals, nursing care facilities, fire and police departments and anywhere that needed PPE (personal protective equipment).”
Lombardi also became a certified forklift driver to help more at the hanger. He said he’d gladly keep working there while he finishes his final year at LBCC. Lombardi said he wants to continue school at a four-year university, and plans on applying for a Fire Academy where he can pick up another certificate and take one step closer to becoming a firefighter.
Even though he’s stayed busy since graduating from Millikan, Lombardi still takes time to reminisce on his days on the football field.
“I had that scholarship offer from Arizona Christian and it was a tough decision to not take it,” Lombardi said. “I still think about playing at LBCC or something, but if I did that, I wouldn’t be able to do things like the search and rescue program.”
Lombardi got the nickname “Old School” in high school because of his understated demeanor and workmanlike effort on the field. Not much has changed. Lombardi is still reluctant to give himself credit for accomplishments and recently bought a 1958 Volkswagen Bug to fix up himself.
“If I can help someone accomplish more than what they would’ve on their own, that’s so rewarding to me,” Lombardi said. “I want to know I made a positive impact on someone’s life.”