For the lucky few who will play college football on a full scholarship, National Signing Day often represents the end of the recruiting process. Many others have to be a bit more patient.
Damascus senior Andrew Nickell watched on Feb. 6 as three of his classmates – Zach Bradshaw (Virginia), George Vinson (Appalachian State) and Trevor Patton (Division II Saint Anselm’s) – signed letters of intent to play at the next level.
Even though he was never offered a full scholarship, the 6-foot-1, 260-pound lineman knew he wanted to continue his career, too. On Sunday, he finally made up his mind.
Nickell gave an oral commitment to join William & Mary as a preferred walk-on in the fall. He also considered a similar arrangement at James Madison, along with opportunities to play at Division II Shepherd and Division III Salisbury. Last month, Nickell visited the Williamsburg campus, and the Tribe coaches sold him on the opportunity to earn a scholarship playing on the defensive line at the Football Championship Subdivision school.
He said longtime coach Jimmye Laycock regularly keeps a few scholarships available to reward productive walk-ons, noting the list of players who found success following that route includes Adrian Tracy. The former Potomac Falls standout walked on at William and Mary playing defensive end and is now in the NFL with the New York Giants.
“I just trusted my [high school] coaches,” Nickell said. “They said, ‘If you want to walk on somewhere, this is definitely the spot. They’ll treat you like a scholarship player and give you a fair chance.’”
William & Mary inked a 12-player class on National Signing Day that included Oakton All-Met offensive lineman Chris Durant, Sherwood safety Richie DiPietro, West Springfield running back Jonathan Dunn and Gar-Field linebacker Xavier Roscoe.
Nickell garnered some recruiting attention after earning first-team All-Montgomery 3A/2A honors on offense in the fall. He had a partial scholarship offer from Bryant but didn’t see it as a fit after a visit there. He was also in contact with Saint Anselm’s and Shepherd leading up to National Signing Day.
Instead, Nickell, also a 285-pound wrestler who helped the Hornets to the Maryland 4A/3A team dual title last month, chose not to sign. Damascus assistant Greg Frazier continued to work the phones on his behalf to line up potential opportunities.
After visiting William and Mary, Nickell decided to visit Salisbury and Shepherd to compare the opportunities. The Sea Gulls, who cannot offer athletic scholarships, saw him as an offensive lineman. The Rams would have allowed him to choose his position.
By Sunday afternoon, Nickell knew he no longer wanted to visit James Madison or anywhere else. William & Mary was the pick.
“I didn’t need to look anymore,” Nickell said. “When I visited there, I just fell in love with it.”
Elsewhere, an abbreviated hoops schedule included the crowning of DCIAA champions and a tough day for local teams at the Virginia AAA state tournament in Richmond:
- Coolidge guard Kory Cooley played the hero in the DCIAA boys’ final, hitting the game-winning free throw with 10 seconds left in a 62-61 win over rival Theodore Roosevelt. The Rough Riders erased a seven-point deficit with less than two minutes left to tie the game and then had two chances to win it in the final sequence, but the Colts took the title for the second straight season. Check out the photo gallery here.
- The H.D. Woodson girls have a largely new cast of characters this season, but the Warriors claimed a familiar piece of hardware on Monday night, coasting past Wilson, 81-29, to take their eighth straight DCIAA title. Junior Breonn Hughey, one of the few holdovers, had a season-high 20 points in the victory.
- After winning the Northern Region title, the W.T. Woodson boys had their postseason run stopped with a 75-65 loss to Henrico. The Warriors made seven of nine three-pointers in the opening half to take control of the game, and the Cavaliers couldn’t muster another comeback like the one that delivered the region title.
- Wakefield shot 29 percent from the field in a 66-46 loss to John Marshall. Wakefield Coach Tony Bentley said the string of missed shots was “like a domino effect.”
- The shorthanded Stonewall Jackson girls were ousted, 48-38, by Princess Anne, which advanced to the Virginia AAA state final for the fifth straight season. Junior Nicole Floyd had 12 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in the semifinal loss.
Video of the Night
Check out the sights and sounds of last night’s DCIAA championship double-header where the H.D. Woodson girls and Coolidge boys came away with titles.
Number Crunch: 11
The number of fan buses W.T. Woodson brought down to Siegel Center in Richmond for its Virginia AAA semifinal with Henrico on Monday night. In their first-ever state semifinal appearance, the Cavaliers fell to the Warriors, but it wasn’t for lack of fan support.
— Arundel senior Markus Oliphant has overcome the sudden loss of his older brother to lead the Wildcats to the Maryland 4A East semifinals tonight against Meade.
— The AAA Northern Region did not qualify a girls’ basketball team for the state semifinals for just the second time in 10 years, but Edison and South Lakes are both trending upward.
— The North Point girls enter this week’s Maryland 4A tournament with lofty expectations.
— The inaugural Maryland State Private School Championship tournament won’t be played after all. Tournament director Keith Veney didn’t have enough interest to go forward with his plan for a three-round tournament.
What to Watch Today
Salem vs. No. 20 Potomac Falls at VCU, 9 p.m.
The Panthers have been regulars in Richmond recently, and will make their fourth straight appearance in the Virginia AA Division 4 state semifinals at Siegel Center.
Potomac Falls fell in this round last year to squash its hopes of a three-peat, but the team has won 21 of its past 22 games, heading into this matchup with the Spartans.
If you can’t make it to Richmond, the Maryland boys’ public school tournament continues with region semifinals. Kennedy at Magruder (Maryland 4A West), Wise at DuVal (4A South), Friendly at Potomac (Md.) (3A South) and Largo at Oakland Mills (2A South) are among the highlights.