Spartan Stadium under the lights. A Top 25 opponent in town. ABC broadcast. Big Ten season opener.
It was nothing that made him any more nervous, though.
“Not at all,” he said. “I kind of feed off of that.”
The true freshman from Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway had seven tackles in his first start, Michigan State’s 27-22 win against Nebraska.
“I was excited,” he said. “Everything a freshman coming into the Big Ten would have, but after the first play, I settled in and just took it play by play.”
Nicholson said he was informed Monday there was a possibility he would be starting, but that was set in stone on Thursday.
He said he had been splitting reps with junior R.J. Williamson in practice through the week.
”I was getting reps with the ones and so was R.J.,” he said. “On Thursday, that’s when they told me, so I guess I won it then.”
He was informed by coach Mark Dantonio and defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett of the decision that he would be the starter.
”I had a pretty straight face. I couldn’t show that much excitement,” he said. “Coming out of this game, I feel pretty good.”
Senior linebacker Taiwan Jones said he thought Nicholson did a great job in his starting debut.
”He was fearless,” Jones said. “He wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and he just continued to play hard and give it his all.
”That’s all we ask for here at Michigan State.”
Paired up with the freshman in the secondary, senior safety Kurtis Drummond said he thought Nicholson showed how good of a player he is.
“I saw Montae flying around making tackles and making plays,” he said.
Williamson split time with Nicholson on Saturday, tallying two tackles and a pass breakup. Drummond said no matter who is playing alongside him, he has a high amount of trust in either.
“Whoever the coaches put in back there, they have trust in them,” he said. “That doesn’t lower my trust with anyone back there or change my play at all.
”Montae is a good player, R.J. Williamson is a good player. We have a lot of depth on this team and it shows.”