Derek Nicholson did not become one of the top rising senior prospects in the country overnight. The 6-2, 228 pound Mount Tabor High School (Winston-Salem, NC) middle linebacker has always possessed uncanny ability and athleticism, but it is his work ethic that has made him into the player he is today – a player that currently boasts around 17 official scholarship offers.
“The one reason Derek is great – actually there are many reasons – but the most important thing I think is as great a football player as he is, as great an athlete as he is, he’s always worked hard,” Mount Tabor Head Coach Bob Sapp said. “He has tremendous work ethic. He’s gone from being a good athlete and having potential to being a great player by not letting his potential sit there. He’s got coachability and the ability to make himself better.”
Nicholson exhibited his talent as a freshman, when he made 123 tackles while playing linebacker alongside his brother AJ, who is now at Florida State on a football scholarship. The year before, in eighth grade, is when Derek really began his training, which he has continued up to this day.
He lifts weights everyday. After school, he does speed training work, hoping to improve upon his already impressive speed – Derek runs a 4.55 in the 40 yard dash. His workout doesn’t end at school, however, as he returns home to run his routine of sprint-jog-stride-walk. He also runs hills to improve his endurance.
“I work hard to try to be the best,” Nicholson said. He racked-up 181 tackles with 27 tackles-for-loss and ten sacks as a junior last season. “I try to do what everyone else doesn’t want to do. I know it’s going to get hard sometimes, but you’re not working hard enough if it’s not hard. I’m an avid kind of guy. I’ll never quit working hard.”
Derek’s family has been a major influence and is primarily responsible in Derek possessing the work ethic he shows. In addition to his brother AJ, Nicholson’s oldest brother Darrell played for Wingate University the past four years. His father was a great linebacker for UNC.
“Derek is a leader,” Sapp said. “He started as a freshman beside his brother AJ, who is now at Florida State. As a sophomore he stepped right in at middle linebacker. He has a lot of the same traits as his brother in terms of being a leader. They both get that from their Dad, who was a great linebacker at UNC. Having a great family and support has a lot to do with his success.”
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