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Recruiting: Nicholson the next great at Gateway

| Saturday, June 23, 2012, 9:48 p.m.

The hottest prospect in the WPIAL has gone from backup to BCS offers in just a few months.

Meet Montae Nicholson.

If this month is any indication, Nicholson will be the next five-star recruit to come out of Gateway.

“There's no question,” Gateway coach Terry Smith said. “Height, weight, speed, athleticism, ball skills, body control, intelligence — he's got the full package.”

A 6-foot-2, 195-pound free safety who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, Nicholson has so impressed coaches at camps that he has received scholarship offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, Pitt, Penn State and, on Tuesday, Michigan.

“It's amazing, actually,” he said. “I figure if I go out there to these camps and show what I have, they'll be interested in me so I put it all on the line at these camps.”

Nicholson was no slouch as a sophomore, just stuck behind Brian Jones, who received a full scholarship to Robert Morris.

Not that Nicholson allowed it to affect him, thanks to his no-nonsense mom, Jackie Crawford.

“He has a terrific mother who is keeping him grounded,” Smith said. “She requires in her household for him to keep a 3.0 grade-point average to play. She doesn't care what the school rules are. He has that embedded in his foundation.”

Adds Nicholson: “My mom is a stickler for grades, but I appreciate it. I look around at some kids, and that's the only thing that they're missing. I'm very thankful that I have a mom that presses me about my grades. If she didn't, I wouldn't have the opportunities that I do.”

She's not all that keeps him humble. Gateway is a regular stop on the recruiting trail, but Nicholson sat out the spring with a separated shoulder. So, he knew he needed to compete on the camp circuit.

Nicholson is flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as another Gators great now in the NFL, Justin King. Not that Nicholson welcomes the inevitable comparisons sure to follow.

“Don't get me wrong, Justin's a great player, and I'd like to be where he is, but I'd like people to follow in my footsteps; I'd like to make my own name,” Nicholson said.

“I'll be honest. It is a lot to live up to, but I try not to let it faze me. People say, ‘You're going to be the next Justin King,' but I'm just going to play football. I'm not going to let this go to my head.”

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