For the next ten days, we’ll be running the inaugural 2015 edition of a new feature: “Our Favorite Players.” We picked our ten favorite Virginia Tech football players on the 2015 roster, and we’ll highlight one such player each day, including great pics and great videos, and often both.
The players are presented in no particular order. We like all Hokie football players of course, but these ten have the most star power, charisma, and appeal to the fan base, as voted on by TSL staff (in other words, me and Chris Coleman).
Up first: Dadi Nicolas.
In a day and age when sleepers are nearly impossible to find in recruiting, Virginia Tech landed a doozy in Dadi Nicolas. Just don’t call him Wedley; Wedley Estime was the name Nicolas bore when he committed to Virginia Tech the day before Signing Day in 2011, part of a late, out-of-the-blue package deal with fellow Atlantic Community (Delray Beach, FL) defensive lineman Luther Maddy.
Wedley Estime never made it to Blacksburg, because he changed his name to (the much cooler) Dadi Nicolas before coming to Tech. Cue the cries of “Who’s your Dadi?” …. we’ll wait. Done? Good. It’s fun, isn’t it? To amp up the cool factor, Dadi has added “Lhomme” to his moniker for 2015, so he is now Dadi Lhomme Nicolas.
“Dadi and Maddy” were teammates with 2009 Hokie signee Jayron Hosley at Atlantic Community, and Hosley was a star at Virginia Tech by the time Dadi and Maddy signed with the Hokies in February 2011.
Except Dadi wasn’t really teammates with Hosley at Atlantic Community … because Dadi didn’t play football until his senior year in high school in 2010, two years after Hosley had left Delray Beach and gone to Blacksburg.
With just one year of football to his credit, Dadi was the ultimate sleeper recruit, and he has woken up with a vengeance. Everything Atlantic head coach Chris Bean said at the time sounds like a high school coach blowing clichéd sunshine up your posterior:
“I’ve never seen a guy who goes for the football like Wedley goes for the football,” Bean said. “He has a non-stop motor from the time the play starts to the end. He loves the game. He comes to practice and enjoys practice. He enjoys the game and the fellowship with the other players. I’ve never seen a day he didn’t want to practice. After we made up his senior highlight tape, we took a look and realized that this kid was a freak. He is green, but if he reaches his full potential he could be a Corey Moore. He could be a game-changer.”
Yes, Bean went there; he dropped Corey Moore’s name. Moore and Nicolas are physically very different: Moore was short, compact, powerful, and had a burst; Nicolas is tall, lanky, and at his best when he’s running full speed.
But Chris Bean can be forgiven. Everything else he said has been dead on. Shy, reserved, and thoughtful in front of the cameras and microphones, Nicolas comes to life when the ball is snapped. From the time Dadi Nicolas arrived on campus, defensive line coach Charley Wiles started talking about how Nicolas runs like a gazelle, but in reality, Nicolas plays not like prey, but like a hunter, tracking down ball carriers like a cheetah on the Serengeti. He chases quarterbacks as if his next meal depends upon catching them, and he’ll starve if he doesn’t rack up another sack.
He lays his body out routinely and spends himself, often slow to get up off the turf because he doesn’t have anything left in the tank, or he has overextended or stretched a part of his body that wasn’t meant to be bent the way he forced it to go.
But then he’s right back at it the next play. It’s not just show; Dadi Nicolas operates on the edge. He doesn’t know any other way.
Four years after he took up the game of football, Dadi registered 18.5 tackles for loss for Virginia Tech during the 2014 season, which led the Hokies and was second-most in the ACC, earning second-team All-ACC honors. He had 9 sacks, second for VT behind Ken Ekanem’s 9.5, and his stock rose so high that he considered going pro, but decided to stay.
Good thing. The sack artist formerly known as Wedley is making some preseason All-America lists, and is one of the key components of what is expected to be another stout Bud Foster defense in 2015. Dadi Nicolas is living proof that in Foster’s system, a high motor and a relentless drive to tackle the guy with the ball will make you a star … and one of our favorite players for 2015.
No play better demonstrates Dadi’s speed and relentless pursuit of the ball than this play from the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Rutgers.