Nigel Nicholas is OSU's resident goofball, leader on defense
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Sunday, December 30, 2012
12/30/12 at 7:15 AM
DALLAS - Oklahoma State's practice ended and Nigel Nicholas was armed for what usually comes next.
"I'm ready, man," the senior defensive end said.
Nicholas opened his left hand to reveal a wad of athletic tape he had molded into a ball. He was hoping post-practice interviews would end before the locker room emptied. He wanted - no, needed - to go to the locker room and throw the ball of tape in the direction of a teammate.
"The first option is just throw a pure fastball at somebody," Nicholas said.
"Another option is to show them my versatility with a change-up - throw a change-up at somebody's head. Or me and my boy James Castleman, we might just throw it around."
Here's what you should read into that: OSU is on a business trip to face Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. But Nicholas' teammates are guaranteed to have a good time because he won't tolerate anything else.
"I just like to have fun," he said. "These guys are good guys and I just like for them to have fun with me."
Nicholas suggested there were a lot of too-serious guys among OSU seniors who wrapped up their careers two seasons ago. He name-dropped Ugo Chinasa, who was so quiet that Nicholas sometimes approached Chinasa just to provoke him into saying something.
"It was my job," Nicholas said, smiling. "I had to."
That's Nicholas, who was described by teammate Cooper Bassett as being the biggest (6-foot-3, 269 pounds) kid on the team. Bassett said Nicholas wants to "play" 24 hours, seven days a week.
"I'm sure whenever he was a baby or a child, his mom could leave him in a room with no toys and he would find something to entertain himself with," Bassett said, noting that Nicholas turns everything into a game - including using Gatorade bottles and trash cans to stage 3-point shooting contests in the locker room.
"He will find some tape on the ground and roll it up into a ball and we'll start having home run derbies. Or he will start showing how fast he can pitch. He makes it fun to be around."
Even Nicholas' recruitment turned into a game, although it wasn't his idea.
Nicholas, who is from Rossville, Ga., committed to Duke before visiting Stillwater. Although he liked OSU's facilities and coaches, he was unsure about switching his pledge until he went bowling with his recruiting host.
The host was former player Richetti Jones, who decided there should be something at stake when they bowled.
"He told me if I win, he would never talk to me or call me again," Nicholas said. "But if he wins, I'm going to have to commit."
Nicholas couldn't resist a challenge. What Nicholas didn't know was Jones is apparently a pretty good bowler.
"He tricked me," Nicholas said. "I'm happy he did though."
Five years later, Nicholas is preparing to play in his 52nd collegiate game. He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 performer as an undersized defensive tackle in 2011. The emergence of Castleman and junior-college transfer Calvin Barnett allowed Nicholas to move to end this season. He was serious enough during games to lead the Cowboys in sacks.
"I love coaching him," defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "He has been a great person and a great player for us."
Young said Nicholas has a bright smile on his face all the time and is a pleasure to be around.
"I feel like there is no reason to walk around droopy and sad," Nicholas said.
Life's too short to do anything else, according to Nicholas, who traced his "big kid" roots to when he was a little kid. He said he grew up with two brothers who are "silly just like me."
Said Nicholas, "We just had a household of pure fun all the time."
Now it's a locker room full of fun when Nicholas is present. And every team, for the sake of keeping things in perspective, arguably needs tone-setters like him.
"The thing about it on this team is we have so many," Nicholas said. "That's why I love Oklahoma State."
Heart of Dallas Bowl
OSU (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
11 a.m. Tuesday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Nicholas keeps things fun for Cowboys
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389