Probably the first question some might be wondering is, "Does Ohio State really have a legitimate shot at pulling a young man out from under the clutches of a watchful Trojan army?"
Believe it or not – they probably do.
Brandon, just coming off of his junior season in which his coach describes his performance as ‘domination,' has not always lived on the West coast. Before his father's job transfer, Nicolas played as a freshman at some "obscure" school in the Cleveland area named Saint Ignatius. Coach Rollinson remarked, "It was a nice day in my high school when this big freshman came here. He has played for us on the varsity football team for the last two years."
Furthermore, when asked if he still follows any teams from the Midwest, Brandon said that he did. His favorite professional team is Buffalo, and he was pulling for the Buckeyes in 2002. He called the Fiesta Bowl – "A great game." Most Buckeye fans would certainly agree.
The question now is – will the interest be reciprocated? What are his grades like? How about his character? Does he fit the mold of a young man that Jim Tressel will actively recruit and extend an early scholarship offer?
Coach Rollinson describes Brandon as "an outstanding kid. Very mature. I say mature because of the family. He is well-traveled and a well-spoken young man and a wonderful kid."
He went on to say "He is just one of those kids that is well liked because of his manner. He is courteous. He is unassuming. He makes friends easily. He is kind of one of those guys that will stop and talk to everybody. He is the type of kid…let everybody else get the publicity. He is not lining up to get interviews and pictures taken. He would just as soon be left alone and just go out and crush you and then smile and do it again. He is just a good wholesome kid."
Outside of football, Mater Dei has a mandatory Christian service program in which students give 80 hours of volunteer time during their years at the school. Just a junior (who transferred in after being at St. Ignatius as a freshman), Brandon is closing in on completion of those 80 and is very active in Special Olympics work at the school.
Grades and test scores are not going to be a problem either for the young Mr. Nicholas. Brandon maintains a 3.0 grade point at Mater Dei (no easy feat) and pulled a 3.4 this past semester. He took the SAT for the first time this past weekend, and it is safe to assume that reaching a qualifying mark likely will not be a problem.
According to Brandon, what gives him the most satisfaction outside of football is "Performing well. In the classroom or anything else I do – I want to do my best."
Now the only remaining question surrounds his football prowess. Could he play and excel at the next level?
His coach believes he can. In talking with him, Rollinson drops names of Division I-A college players like they were but common pebbles in a stream (which they are at Mater Dei). He believes that Brandon has a frame similar to that of Brad Williams – a player Mater Dei send to Notre Dame in the mid 1990's and the speed and agility of Lenny Vandermade, another former Monarch who ended up a starter at guard for USC.
Not a bad combination.
Brandon dominates on both sides of the ball. As an offensive lineman, he consistently graded out in the 90's, and on defense he was a terror. Though teams studiously avoided his side of the field whenever possible, Brandon still finished the season with 2 ½ sacks, 18 tackles, and 12 assisted tackles.
Yeah, maybe some others came up with better numbers, but how many did so playing almost the full season with a broken wrist?
Apparently Brandon hurt himself in the fourth game of the season. Figuring he just had a bad sprain, Nicholas eschewed pampering it and just opted to play. "I didn't think it was enough pain to be broken. I knew it always hurt, but I thought it was just sprained. It turns out after the season I had it checked out and it was broken," he said.
Looked at on paper, Brandon's greatest assets are likely his speed and his strength. With a 525 squat, a 350 bench (before he hurt his wrist), and a 4.86 40 time – college recruiters are bound to pay homage to him. When you look at Brandon on the field however, he believes it is his endurance that gives him a chance to be special. Since Mater Dei coaches allow their best players to go both ways, Nicholas noted, "Most games I was going over 100 plays a game..."
Coach Rollinson notices his tenacity and domination. "The part that I like is watching Brandon run people down from sideline to sideline. He gets vertical and flattens down as good as any kid we ever had. He will drop that work shoulder and go."
Still, coach Rollinson sees room for improvement in Brandon (as any good coach would and should). On offense, Nicholas needs to concentrate on "the finer points. Making sure in playing the weak side or the quick side tackle - we are constantly working on getting that drop step. He has started to perfect that but it is something every kid has to work on because you are on an island over there. You are going to get the 6'2" 220 lb end that is going to come screaming off the edge."
On defense, his coach notes, "There are times when I think he does not separate fast enough. He knows that once he does he can usually throw most kids. We are always saying, ‘Brandon get them away from you and then throw them.'"
Brandon wants to improve as well. After first listing off his goals for his team (he wants to win a championship), he mentions his own personal aims. He wants to work on his quickness for next season. "You can always get quicker and faster - more explosive. Right now I am training hard in the weight room and running. I do different explosive drills too - agility drills." Nicholas continues to work with a speed coach (something he has been doing for a year) and in the weight room to make this goal a reality.
So where will Brandon end up? At this point, there are no clear-cut favorites. He wants a school where he feels comfortable with the coaching staff and like most - early playing time. He would like to make a decision before the season begins if the right schools show enough interest, but there is a possibility he could opt to hold off and/or take some visits just to be certain of his choice.
Coach Rollinson on what is unusual about Brandon: "His humility."
Brandon on his possible major: "Probably business. I like math. That is probably my best subject."
Coach Rollinson on where Brandon will play in college: "Myself – because of his foot speed – I see him as a defensive player, but I don't coach college football. I can tell you if you ask Brandon he will say he would like an opportunity to play defense, but in the same breath he will tell you, ‘If it is one of my top choices of schools I want to go to I am going to play where they want me to play.'"
Brandon on where he will play in college (in a separate but later interview): "Right now, I think I prefer defensive line, but if the school is right – wherever I can play and get the opportunity to play."
What gives Brandon the most satisfaction on the football field: "Knowing I gave it my all. My best. That I did not leave anything on the field."
Brandon's hobbies: "Mainly football. So much time goes into it, just lifting and running. I like to play video games and hang out with my friends."
His Favorite Video Game: "NCAA 2003."
Scholarship Offers: "Colorado, ASU, UCLA, WSU, Cal. A couple of others have indicated they will be offering soon."
Early Favorites for Brandon: "Right now probably my favorites would be UCLA, Colorado, Arizona State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma."