"It was actually a relief," said the junior college transfer who will arrive in Oxford in January to start his Rebel football career. "I was thinking lately about Ole Miss, how they were with me early and stayed with me. I just felt comfortable with Ole Miss. Once I finally got things done this week, that's really when it hit me. I was so excited after I signed that paper."
Nicholas, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, spent two seasons playing football at ASA College in New York City. He and fellow Ole Miss signee, defensive lineman Gilbert Pena, both played the only two seasons in the history of the ASA program, which began in 2009.
ASA started in 1985 as "Advanced Software Analysis," an institute focused on computer programming with 12 students, and has grown to more than 3,000 students on its Brooklyn and Manhattan campuses. Nicholas said making the move to the smaller setting in northern Mississippi suits him well.
"It's a big-time program, and I'm happy to be going there," he said of Ole Miss football. "It's in the SEC and competes against the best players and teams in college football. I want to help Ole Miss get back to a bowl game. I learned a lot about the history of Ole Miss (on his visit). There is a lot of tradition."
But it was a tradition of winning seasons and bowl games that the 2010 team did not follow. Nicholas said he believes he can step in and help the defense be a better unit.
"I plan to jump right in and get ready," he said of his arrival next month. "It looks like they run pretty much the same schemes we did at JUCO. I feel I understand and relate to what we will be running there.
"I also took a good look at the depth chart to see where I fit in," he continued. "Ole Miss has some good safeties, but not many of them. I can come in and earn playing time, especially with a spring under my belt. It's a fit."
Nicholas, whose older brother Stephen plays for the Atlanta Falcons, signed with South Florida, where Stephen played out of high school. But he did not make qualifying scores academically. He opted to go the JUCO route in New York. South Florida changed coaching staffs this year and all his connections with that program changed, opening up his recruitment.
North Carolina and Rutgers were also very interested in him, as they were Pena, who also visited Ole Miss the first weekend of December.
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said he is pleased to be getting Nicholas to join the Rebel program.
"Ivan is a free safety that is a hitter," Nutt said. "He comes from a talented family with a brother playing in the NFL. I'm excited about how aggressive he is."
Nicholas agrees with Nutt's assessment.
"I consider myself very aggressive. I love to fly around and hit people. That's football, to me. I like to mix it up."
Nicholas earned first-team All-Northeast Conference honors this past season after posting 50 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 2.0 quarterback sacks at ASA.
As a senior at Lee High School in Jacksonville, Nicholas had 84 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 3.0 quarterback sacks, two punt blocks, and two fumble recoveries to earn first-team All-First Coast honors.
Nicholas said he is ready for whatever his coaches have planned for him this upcoming semester and during spring football.
"It's important I go through spring training," he said. "I need to learn the schemes so I can play faster and attack when the season rolls around. If I know the scheme heading into August practice, that just gives me a step up on anyone who comes in during the summer.
"The main thing is to stay focused," he continued. "My family says to never stop working. I learned that from them. I know the coaches will make sure I continue to do that also."
Nicholas said he could tell the Rebels were not that far from being a better defensive unit in 2010.
"It was just the small details," he said. "It didn't look like anything major. Just make the reads, wrap up, and make the play. Just the details. It's something for us to work on, and I'm sure the coaches will help us work that out."