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Thursday, April 4, 2013
Nicholson's recruitment has Steel City feel

By Jared Shanker

When Stanford and Vanderbilt offered ESPN Watch List athlete Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway), it immediately caught his attention. Both programs have the athletics, but more importantly the academics, he is looking for in a school.

“I understand there’s life after football,” Nicholson said. “If I’m blessed enough to make it to the NFL, I’ll be done by the time I’m 35 if I’m lucky. So I have 25 years after that until I retire.”

Academics will only be part of the equation for Nicholson, whose recruitment has a very local flavor despite offers from all over the country.

Pittsburgh is a 15-minute drive from Monroeville for Nicholson, and he has visited the Panthers several times during the fall and winter. He has built a strong relationship with Panthers assistant coach Matt House, who has sold Nicholson on the direction the program is headed under second-year coach Paul Chryst.

Nicholson visited Pitt in mid-February for a basketball game and was talking to House about the future of the program. House laid it out for Nicholson that in order for the program to be successful, it needs to keep local talent like the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Nicholson home.

“He told me one time I was down there that when you go to another school in another state you have to start over -- and I don’t have a problem with that -- but at Pitt everyone knows me and they’re already rooting for you instead of winning them over,” Nicholson said. “It doesn’t make a difference to me, but it did make sense to me. I appreciate what they’re doing with keeping the hometown talent.”

Florida State, despite being more than 1,000 miles away, also has a Pittsburgh feel to Nicholson. Seminoles assistant Sal Sunseri has deep ties to the Steel City, and Sunseri offered Nicholson not long after joining the staff in Tallahassee.

“I can tell they’re a lot alike [the Gateway coaches],” Nicholson said, “and I can see myself playing under those guys.”

Nicholson plans to visit Florida State soon, but one of his most recent visits went to Temple. Before the trip, he was not all that interested in Temple despite his former high school coach, Terry Smith, joining the Owls staff as the receivers coach this winter. And if Nicholson was going to seriously consider Temple, it probably would only be because of Smith.

That all changed once Nicholson arrived in Philadelphia, as he was impressed with the entire program and university at Temple.

“Honestly it is,” Nicholson said when asked if Temple is a legitimate potential landing spot. “When I first got [the offer] I’m thinking ‘It’s just because Coach Terry is there, so I’ll give it a look,’ but when I got up there they laid everything out. It was very informative and I enjoyed myself very much.”

Nicholson said he plans on making several visits with specific plans to visit Florida State and Georgia Tech, but he is unsure when he will make them with his track season underway.