Playing at Morehead more than a snap for Justin Nichols

August 17, 2004


Once Justin Nichols decided he needed a "fresh start" for his football career, he knew exactly where to look - Morehead State University.

"I actually wanted to go there out of high school, but they didn't have an opening for me at (preseason) camp," said Nichols, a former All-State lineman at Boyle County. "So I went to Louisville because they would let me go to camp."

Nichols went to Louisville as a long snapper, but then-coach John L. Smith also let him play fullback on the scout team during the 2002 season when he got to block for transfer Eric Shelton, the leading rusher at Louisville last season. Once Smith left, new coach Bobby Petrino wanted Nichols to concentrate only on long snapping.


"I like playing, not just snapping," Nichols said.

Former Boyle teammate Casey McCoy was at Morehead and he told Nichols that the Eagles needed defensive linemen. That's about all it took for Nichols to say good-bye to Louisville and join the Division I-AA Eagles.

"I got to play every game last year and came out of spring practice No. 1 on the depth chart at tackle," Nichols said. "We got to play in the national title game and even though we lost (to Valparaiso), it was still a great experience. It's not often you get to play for a national title."

Nichols, who was in on 10 tackles last year, never harbored any ill feelings toward Morehead for not inviting him to camp two years ago.

"They are loyal to returning players and I can understand that," Nichols said. "I don't think bad about them at all for that."

He also has no regrets about leaving the Cardinals even though former Boyle teammates Bobby and Travis Leffew, both starting linemen at Louisville, tell him that he could be the team's No. 1 snapper this season.

"It's not that great just to snap. What little talent I have, I don't want to waste by limiting myself to only being a long snapper," Nichols, who snaps for punts and field goals at Morehead, said. "Besides, football is football.

"Attitude-wise, the kids at Morehead play more for the love of the game. At Louisville, it's pretty much like getting paid for playing. It's all business. But once the games start, it's all about football and I'm just glad to be playing."

Nichols has gone from a 225-pound lineman at Boyle to a 270-pound sophomore at Morehead. "I had to get bigger to survive in the line," Nichols said.

He expects Morehead to have another banner season and compete for a national title. The Eagles return nine defensive starters to bolster a young offensive unit.

"We only lost a tackle and outside linebacker on defense," Nichols said. "We play 22 or 23 players every game on defense, so we have depth. That won't be a problem. We have a lot of good kids behind me. That's why my only real concern right now is just trying to secure my starting position when the season starts."

Nichols still enjoys watching McCoy play. The junior fullback had 27 carries for 139 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per rush, last season. However, Nichols said statistics don't indicate McCoy's worth to the team.

"Casey has always been a real good blocker and still is," Nichols said. "He's the biggest running back we have returning. We have a lot of quick kids that like to get out in the open field and run, but Casey is aggressive and just likes to hit people. He's aggressive whether he's blocking or trying to run over someone. I don't think he'll ever change."

Nichols wouldn't ever change having a chance to play regularly to be a part-time specialist, either.

"I enjoyed my year at Louisville, but I enjoy being at Morehead a lot more," Nichols said. "Football players want to play and at Morehead, I have that chance."|None|***

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