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Gorman: Nicholson already an All-American

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Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Terry Smith got the news earlier this week but waited until after Gateway's 42-0 victory over Penn-Trafford on Friday clinched the Quad East title.

Smith wanted to make a grand gesture in announcing that junior safety Montae Nicholson had been selected to play in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

“The whole locker room erupted,” Smith said. “He couldn't stop smiling. The whole moment was electric and exciting. You could see he was just overwhelmed with it.”

With three national football all-star games — Semper Fidelis and Under Armour are the others — the competition to attract top talent is starting to mirror recruiting process. Game organizers are dangling All-America status the way schools offer scholarships — earlier and earlier.

“For the immature kid, it will take the incentive away; for a mature kid like Montae Nicholson, it just gives him more,” said Smith, who will be an assistant coach in the Semper Fidelis All-American Game in January. “He comes from a humble background, so it energizes him to do more. It's the nature of a competitive market.”

What's unique about Nicholson's selection is that he wasn't a starter until this fall. But his size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), speed (40-yard dash in low 4.5s) and ball skills (32 yards per catch and five touchdowns) has attracted offers from Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Texas Tech and Toledo.

“Montae is having a ridiculous season,” Smith said. “Every game, he's getting better. He has the skill set to be a big-time player.”

Smith sent Nicholson's game film to national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell, who has input on the selection of the U.S. Army All-American teams.

“Once I sent him the film, it was a no-brainer,” Smith said.

Nicholson could become the fifth Gateway player to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, following Justin King, Shayne Hale, Dorian Bell and Corey Brown.

Gateway has three other juniors with scholarship offers: defensive back Anthony Davis (Texas Tech), wide receiver Ricky Rogers (Pitt, Rutgers) and defensive end Brennon Thrift (Pitt, West Virginia).

Who knows whether any of them will be invited to play in All-America games, but this much is clear: It might not be long before we find out.

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