It doesn’t take too long for opposing quarterbacks to learn their lesson against the Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway High school secondary: Don’t throw it deep.
With four Division I-offered defensive backs, the Gateway secondary has made a name for itself.
But even within that, there’s a greater lesson to be learned. If you must throw (and sometimes teams must), whatever you do, do not throw toward Montae Nicholson.
“We don’t even have jump-ball situations any more because everyone knows Montae wins all those,” Gateway secondary coach Don Smith said. “Teams think about throwing, but then they just shut that idea down.”
“Often, unfortunately, quarterbacks that know me shy away from throwing at me,” Nicholson added. “So when we play teams that don’t know, I take advantage of that and break on the ball. That’s always fun.”
When Nicholson went to Michigan’s camp this summer, Smith had an idea that the coaches would offer him. He knew coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison were looking for larger cornerbacks, and with Nicholson’s combination of size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and speed (4.45 in the 40) he figured they’d pull the trigger.
And, just as Smith thought, Nicholson was offered after camp.
“It was a great experience,” Nicholson said of camping at Michigan. “The coaches were very courteous. They showed a lot of interest. I got to see the facilities a little bit. … And I like that they have such a great winning tradition. Because, I love to win.”
Similar experiences happened for Nicholson following the Penn State and Pitt camps, with coaches offering right after they saw the talent in Nicholson.
“Every coach that has seen Montae, that has seen him run with his size has just said, ‘Oh my,’ ” Smith said. “They think he’s special and then they see him play man-to-man press and they know he’s a must-have.”
And even with that kind of success on the camp scene, Nicholson wasn’t completely happy with this summer.
“I always go into camps just thinking, ‘I’m going to try my best, try to put on a show,’ ” Nicholson said. “And every time I come away I look back and know there’s so much room for improvement.”
With five offers so far (Michigan, Bowling Green, Penn State, Pitt, Toledo), Nicholson’s recruitment seems to be speeding up. But for him, he’s focused on his junior season. He’s hoping to improve his vertical (35 inches) even more so that any team that does consider throwing against him will be punished even more this year.
And, since Nicholson knows his size is what has garnered him much of his interest, he’s also looking to put on a bit more weight.
“You can never stop working to improve,” Nicholson said. “You know, reading routes, speed, strength. You can always get better. You can always understand the game better. That helps a lot, makes the game easier.”