I recall that it was only yesterday that I was interviewing Mr. Nicolas, while his son was finishing up two-a-days at Mater Dei High School. Initially, when I called, Mrs. Nicolas answered the phone and I introduced myself from Irish Eyes magazine. She told me that they haven't heard from Notre Dame in so many words and by her tone, it told me that she wasn't happy with it. Being that it was only my second article for Irish Eyes, if not ever, I kinda started getting nervous, but I trudged on. I knew that being a Mater Dei football player means that you don't get home till late, like 9:00pm in the evening during the season, so I just asked for her permission to call on the weekend to interview Brandon. She was very nice and gave me permission. That Sunday evening, Mrs. Nicolas answered the phone, but, unfortunately, Brandon didn't get home late and was sound asleep. Mr. Nicolas get on the phone and he was nice enough to speak with me and give me an interview.
We spoke for a good amount of time and through that entire conversation, I knew that they wanted and were waiting for an offer from Notre Dame. With hints of frustration, I can tell that Brandon was trying to be patient, but he was probably getting frustrated and it seemed like it was carrying over to them. Being that I grew up in the area and familiar with the Mater Dei football program and we talked about its history in the Orange County area. I knew of Brandon's exploits last year as a junior, handling Long Beach Poly's senior laden offensive and defensive lines. I just didn't know that he did all of that on a broken wrist. Also, Brandon started on varsity as a sophomore and, in his first game, had to go up against High Scholl All American, Derek Landri, from Concord De La Salle, now at Notre Dame. It just seemed that after talking about Brandon that there was so much that isn't known about him.
When the article came out on Monday, I decided to wait till the end of the week to check up on Brandon. I had told Mr. and Mrs. Nicolas that I was going to be checking up regularly to keep up to date on any possible changes and sure enough, when I called, Mrs. Nicolas answered again and this time her tone was absolutely opposite from the first phone call. She told me that Brandon did get an offer from Notre Dame and that Irish Eyes was the first ones to know about it. Needless to say, I told her how excited I was for them. I could tell that it was a bit of a whirlwind for them, but I could just tell how much love they had for Notre Dame. Besides any private family moments, I think this had to be one of the most special times they have had as a family ever. I asked her if Brandon committed yet and she said no. I asked if he was pretty much gonna commit to the Irish and she laughed, saying no, trying to avoid the obvious. I knew answer and she knew I knew the answer. But I had told her that I wouldn't break the story or any predictions without her permission or confirmation.
After that, the rest is history. Brandon committed as the fourth commit from this class and fills a need at lineman. On a personal level for myself, I've never been happier. It was only my second article and something like this happens. I feel like I traveled the gamut of emotions with the Nicolas' in the recruiting process and have come out learning what a love they have for the school. I let the dust settle a bit and finally spoke with Brandon this past weekend. He struck me as a very polite, well mannered, personable young man. As we got into the interview, Brandon started coming across as a bit shy. I can tell that this was not a person that enjoyed talking about himself. Mature for his age, I could not help realize that Brandon was still just a teen. He was still learning to be media savvy, but I can tell that it was still very new to him and it frustrated him. But every time I speak with Brandon or his parents, I can tell that they are elated about what happened. It's something that really can't be described, but when I talk to them I can feel how excited they are and it's a bit infectious. It's nice to know this family bleeds blue and gold so much. I'm sure they can probably argue who's more excited about Brandon going to Notre Dame and personally, I think, if they did, I wouldn't want to bet against any of them. But it was really nice to finally sit down and talk to the newest member to the Notre Dame family.
Irish Eyes: When did you start playing football and can you talk a little bit about your early days on the gridiron?
Brandon Nicolas: I started playing football in the 5th grade for my church in the CYO league, but I had to play on the 7th grade team, because I was over weight for the 5th grade team. It was all right, I enjoyed it, but I probably got beat up a little bit more playing with the older kids. That was my first year playing and I didn't play in 6th grade, because I didn't want to lose the weight. Later I played for my middle school in 7th and 8th grade in Shaker Heights. Then I played 9th grade football at St. Ignatius and spent my last three years here at Mater Dei.
IE: When did you realize that you were going to be more of an impact player then some of the other players and why?
BN: I was pretty much bigger then a lot of the other kids. We had a really good team my freshman year, so I just tried to be the best I could and have a lot of fun. Then sophomore year, coming in here (Mater Dei), it was tough, but I was able to make varsity. I was excited about that. I wasn't as big on the varsity team, but still pretty big for high school.
IE: You go to Mater Dei High School, a private catholic high school in southern California. Why did your parents want you to go there rather then a public school?
BN: They always liked the idea of me going to a private catholic high school. My dad felt that the football, the competition and the coaching was better here at Mater Dei. They also liked the idea of a catholic school and the private education.
IE: You injured your wrist in the fourth game of your junior season against Edison High School. Can you elaborate on what happened and how did affect you as the season progressed, through your upset of Long Beach Poly in the CIF semi-finals, and to the summer camp workouts?
BN: I broke my wrist in the game against Edison High School. I broke it going for a tackle and another guy came from the side and actually hit my hand against the guy who I was tackling. So my hand was smashed between two helmets, right on the wrist. It chipped a piece of my bone and broke. It hurt for the whole season, but I thought it was mainly just a sprain, but I would get it taped up before every game. I didn't miss any games because of it. It was a little tough, but it was okay. Like on offense, I couldn't punch with my left hand. I was left using my right hand and I ended up maybe holding a little more then I should've, but actually I didn't get called for it a lot. I just couldn't punch, lock out, or hit anyone with it.
IE: How does your wrist feel now and what did you have to do specifically to recover from the injury?
BN: I've been fine with it. I had surgery in the off season, a couple weeks after the season ended and they removed the piece of the bone that was broken.
IE: Can you go over your Notre Dame Camp visit, how you felt along the trip and what was going through your thoughts and feelings about the school and football program after you left?
BN: Well, we went up there couple months ago for three days, I think it was. The first day we got there, we really didn't do anything. We actually went there and met Coach Mattison, but I was actually scheduled to tour the next day. We got a hotel room and the next day I toured the whole campus and facilities. Then I met with all the coaches and Coach Mattison. I then went to camp for a day. In the morning, I was on the defensive side of the ball. I worked with Coach Mattison, then the afternoon I worked on the offensive side of the ball. In the afternoon, I worked on 1 on 1's for the lineman and I worked on both sides of the ball, but tested higher on defensive. I was really impressed with the school and I really liked the campus. I knew that there was a really good possibility of me going there if I was given the opportunity. Hopefully, I would talk to the coaches soon, so I can make my decision, because they were one of my top schools.
IE: You wanted to make a commitment before school and the football season started, but Notre Dame hadn't offered yet and it was the school that you were waiting for and really wanted. Emotionally, what were you thinking as a result of not having the offer yet?
BN: I was alright. I knew I was gonna wait till sometime early September, so that I had a chance to talk to some of the coaches. The coaches at Notre Dame, Coach Mattison and Baer, said that they would be getting back to me sometime this summer and probably before my first game and they did, so it all worked out.
IE: So let's go to when your last Irish Eyes article came out. Irish Eyes tried to get you on the phone, but you were too busy and we talked with your dad. The day when the article came out, that evening you got an email from Coach Mattison. Can you discuss how you felt from not having an offer till, when you saw the article and finally getting the email and the subsequent offer from Notre Dame?
BN: I was really excited. It was a shock at first. I first got an email from Coach Mattison that he wanted to talk to me, but he didn't offer me. So, I was really excited. I knew they were gonna get back to me.
IE: You made a verbal commitment rather fast after receiving the offer. What lead up to you finally making the decision to commit to Notre Dame?
BN: In my head, I always knew it was my top school, but I just wasn't positively sure yet. I just had to talk to my parents about it. It was pretty easy though after they offered me. Then after I got the offer, I sat down with my parents, talked about it, and went through some of the points of where I wanted to go, what the schools had to offer, and we all felt that Notre Dame was the school that offered the most.
IE: With the dust settled of you committing, from talking to all the coaches and the media, how do you feel now, knowing that you got what you ultimately wanted, a Notre Dame football scholarship?
BN: I'm very excited. Very happy. I'm glad to have it over with. Now I can just focus on my senior year.
IE: Yesterday was Notre Dame's season opener against Washington State. What were your thoughts about the game and how did you feel during the game?
BN: I thought it was really cool watching the school that I am going to be attending to next year and thought it was great watching them play. I really enjoyed the game. They made a great comeback. Didn't get to see a lot of it first, but I watched it on tape later. I saw the comeback and thought they played well.
IE: Also, from talking with your mom, it looks like you won't be able to make an official visit for a home game. Is this still the case and if so, what were your thoughts of the environment at South Bend during a game?
BN: Yes, right now it is. We have two Thursday, which I think would be the only games I could get out of here for and those are the weeks they are on a bye or away. It looks really cool. It looks like a great atmosphere. It's very exciting and probably fun to play in.
IE: Thanks for taking the time to let us get to know a little better Brandon. Do you have any departing thoughts now that you are going to Notre Dame on a football scholarship?
BN: No, it's kinda weird right now. It's still flooding into me that I will be going there next year. Besides that, I am really excited to go there. I don't know, it's a weird feeling. When someone asks me like where I'm going, it's just a different feeling knowing that you're going to be part of that tradition. They say congratulations a lot, but I don't like to go around talking about it. It's just a great school with a great tradition.