Montae's Unexpected Day at PSU

The four-star WPIAL safety made a last-minute decision to visit Penn State over the weekend. How did it go and where do things stand with his recruitment?

Friday morning, Montae Nicholson had an empty weekend planned. But by that same night, the FOX Sports NEXT four-star safety prospect decided to visit one of the dozen schools he is still considering.

Friday afternoon, Gateway High (Monroeville, Pa.) coach Donnie Militzer proposed a trip to see Penn State, which is in the midst of preseason training camp. So Sunday, Nicholson and his family checked out Bill O'Brien's program.

The idea came about, Nicholson said, because Militzer was unsure how many more trips the safety could make this summer with Gateway's training camp and a new school year on the horizon.

"It was really good to see practice, and how my potential position coaches would be coaching me, and how they run practice," Nicholson said after returning to Monroeville. "The physicality of the whole team stood out, and how everyone seemed like they were into it while practicing.

"I talked to pretty much every coach, and they told me to take my time, and that I have as long as possible. I believe that because of what they've told me previously, which has been pretty straight forward. Coach [Charles] London is a great guy. He's really mellow, but when it gets down to that time to be on the field, he's all business."

Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Stanford, Temple, Virginia Tech and West Virginia made the initial cut for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound safety. Most, if not all, are recruiting him on defense as a safety. In that vein, he did quash one myth about his recruitment.

A consensus has grown that the Lions, led by lead contact London, had interest in Nicholson playing a safety/linebacker hybrid if he committed to the school. Not only is that not the case -- Penn State has never mentioned that, he noted -- but the program is also looking at him at strong safety rather than free safety.

Does it matter to him which position he would possibly line up at in blue and white? Not in the least. But he did rattle off a few reasons why playing strong safety in college might be desirable.

"I do like it," Nicholson said. "It gives me the ability to roam around more, and that gives me the opportunity to get interceptions.

"Ultimately, though, I don't really have a preference."

Academics and a quality fit in defensive coordinator John Butler's system have been the biggest selling points Penn State's staff have offered Nicholson to date. The former is rather important, as the senior-to-be noted his mother is a stickler when it comes to his final choice having a strong academic program. He has already explored what PSU has to offer in that realm, checking out the school's engineering program during a winter Junior Day visit.

For one member of the Nicholson family, those points have already been driven home. Nicholson explained his 7-year-old brother is "a ridiculous Penn State fan," adding that he would likely already commit to the Lions, even at his young age. Nicholson continued that he's unsure what sparked his brother's devotion to the school, adding that they both watched plenty of programs growing up.

Whether big brother is sold enough to end his recruitment with the Lions won't be known for some time. A second list trimming is expected in early fall, and either five or seven programs will remain at that point, the safety said. He also plans to take all five official visits allotted to him, all of which will come during the season.

Nicholson doesn't intend to string any schools along, but he also wants to respect their interest in him, too. It's safe to say Penn State helped that mutual partnership with Sunday's visit. How much will be determined soon.

"I like the way they handle things. Even with the sanctions and the tough times, they stuck together," he said. "Not many people transferred, and that probably impressed me the most. They showed their dedication to the program."


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