Letters of Interest: Andrew Nickell of Damascus embraces preferred walk-on chance at William & Mary

Damascus senior Andrew Nickell, shown here trying to knock down a pass from Seneca Valley quarterback Calvin Reighard, plans to accept a preferred walk-on slot at William and Mary. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

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:

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.

Breakfast Links

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.

Friendly broke through with a win over Westlake in the Maryland 3A South girls’ basketball final on Friday, earning its first trip to the state tournament since 1997.

— 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.

— No. 2 Spalding is gearing up for the chance to play some of the WCAC’s best in the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational tournament, which begins on Thursday.

— The Wise boys have lost just twice in their past 18 games, both times to No. 12 DuVal. The Pumas meet the Tigers on Tuesday in a Maryland 4A South semifinal.

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.

Have a high school sports question? Start a new thread in our forums and I’ll do my best to weigh in. (Click on ‘New Topic‘ to start your thread.)



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Roman Stubbs · March 4, 2013

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