Returning Home

For the second time in his career, Florida State linebacker <b>A.J. Nicholson </b> will take the Groves Stadium field as a visitor and look up to see a few friendly faces in the stands. The Seminoles, meanwhile, continue their preparations for Saturday's road game at Wake Forest. Despite being an underdog, the Demon Deacons can give teams fits with their unorthodox blocking style and misidrection on offense.

This time around Florida State linebacker A.J. Nicholson, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., who chose FSU without showing interest hometown Demon Deacons, is a starter and expects to put on a show.

Now a seasoned junior, he helps anchor a defense that is No. 1 in the nation against the run.

"This is business trip," he said.

"It is for all of us. We're here to get a job done. I'll just have a few extra eyes on me while I do it."

Nicholson expects his dad, his brother Derek and a few close friends to be in the bleachers. He'll line up against "a handful" of players he competed against in the high school ranks.

In that competition, Nicholson racked up 317 tackles for Mt. Tabor Academy in his junior and senior seasons combined. That was enough for Tennessee, Florida, Texas and UNC to come calling.

The suitors for Derek, now a senior at Mt. Tabor who's close to picking up his 600th career tackle, include Michigan, Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida State. According to, the younger Nicholson lists the Seminoles as his top choice but will consider "making a name for himself" somewhere else.

Like father Darrell – a star for North Carolina and the New York Giants – neither are giving Wake Forest a second glance.

"I was so into high school ball or Pop Warner I didn't really go to the games," said A.J.

"I could go to the game on Saturday or go to a basketball game as well. Wake Forest was around the corner so I could do something like that if I wanted to."

After routing No. 6 Virginia 36-3 last weekend, Nicholson and the Seminoles have their sights set higher – a break or two could vault them back into the national title picture.

A big reason for that is the linebacking prowess of Nicholson and fellow starters Buster Davis and Ernie Sims. The trio dominated against the Cavs, combining for 24 tackles, a pair of sacks and three pass defenses. They are the top three tacklers on the team, an impressive feat considering all are starting for the first time this season.

"They're all high energy people," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said.

"They go out there and get it done; they don't just talk about it. A.J. is like the rest of them – he's physical and won't hesitate to throw his body around."

It's no wonder, then, that Nicholson refuses to take too much pleasure in heading home. With what's at stake, the trip is indeed for business purposes.

"If you're a ball player and you like playing football then every time you get on that field you're going to play your hardest," he said. "We're more focused than anything. We want to prove to the world that we're a team to be reckoned with."

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