After returning from a weekend recruiting visit in Durham, N.C., the rising Ridgeland senior said he wouldnt be needing any more official visits.
Duke is going to be my home, he said. Im a Blue Devil.
A starter with the Panthers since his freshman season, Nicholas verbally committed to Duke University over the weekend, officially accepting a football scholarship offer from the Atlantic Coast Conference school.
Nicholas is the first player in the history of Ridgeland football to commit to a Division I-A program. He can not officially sign with the Blue Devils until the first week of February.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end chose Duke over Georgia and Georgia Tech, saying the schools strong academic background and the ability to help rebuild Duke football was what appealed to him most.
The academics were very important, said Nicholas, who plans to major in business and marketing. Duke is a good school academically. They have tutors for every player and every subject. Its just a good school and it feels good knowing Im going there.
But what really made me want to go is that Ill have a chance to go up there and help them. Im going up there to help build a football program.
Nicholas is still only 16 years old, but is one of the strongest players in the Ridgeland program.
He is bench pressing and power cleaning 325 pounds and squatting 470 while maintaining a 40-yard dash time of 4.8 seconds.
Although Duke has had interest in Nicholas for a while, it was his performance at a winter combine in Atlanta that sealed the deal for the Blue Devils coaching staff.
With over 1,300 players in attendance at all different positions, Nicholas clocked the second-fastest time in the pro agility drill. The scholarship offer from Duke came less than 72 hours later.
The coaches at Duke agree with me in the fact that we feel his potential is still untapped, said Ridgeland head coach Mark Mariakis. His future as a football player is unlimited.
As a person, his smile tells the story. Hes a great kid to be around. Hes polite, he works hard and hes driven. He knows exactly what he wants and has goals set in mind for after football and what he wants to do with his life.
Were excited and Nigel is really excited. He and his mom had a great time in Durham last weekend and it was great to see (Duke) cater to him and give him the royal treatment. Accepting the scholarship last weekend was a big honor for him and our program.
Nicholas will be the fourth player from the Chattanooga/North Georgia area on the Blue Devils roster. Former Southeast Whitfield standout Marcus Jones is on the team, as are brothers Ayanga and Ifreke Okpokowuruk, who were defensive stars at McCallie.
Mariakis said that Nicholas commitment is should be motivation for other players in the Ridgeland program.
Weve been preaching hard work in the classroom and outside of the classroom, he said. We tell them to work in the weight room and in the condition program and it will pay off. Last year it was nice to see all that hard work pay off with the state playoffs. Now heres an individual that is being rewarded for his hard work.
Its a life-changing thing for a family to get a scholarship to Duke with the degree, and playing football in the ACC against teams like Florida State and Georgia Tech and Boston College, thats major, Mariakis added. Our kids are excited for him and for themselves because when you get a kid like that thats getting looked at by everybody, everyone around him is getting looked at too. So its a good opportunity for everyone in our program.
Nicholas added that finalizing his college plans early was a relief.
Now Im going to just enjoy my senior year and get in the weight room and get big for Duke, he said. I want to just keep playing hard for Coach Mariakis and do whatever it takes.