Q&A: Kentucky TE commit Tate Nichols

Stanford's fourth verbal commit to its 2010 football class was Scout.com's No. 15 tight end in the nation, Tate Nichols (Ryle HS, Union, Kent.) Despite offers and interest from seemingly every college within 300 miles, the three-star tight end decided to end his college recruitment early by pledging to a school halfway across the country – your Stanford Cardinal.

In an exclusive interview with TheBootleg.com earlier this week, Tate Nichols discussed his reasons for choosing Stanford, the positions he hopes to play in college, and why he decided to leave his home state to play college football.

Andy Drukarev, TheBootleg.com: Why did you pick Stanford?
Tate Nichols: The football program is on the rise. I really like what Coach Harbaugh's doing. The offense that Stanford runs fits me very well and plays to my strengths. Also, you have to take into account the academics. There's not a place in the country where you can play Division I football at that level, and also get the academic benefit of going to a university like Stanford.

AD: When did you commit?
TN: I committed when we visited Stanford during spring break. I stayed for a whole week. The day after Junior Day, which was a two-day thing, I committed at practice.

AD: Tell me about your trip to Stanford.
TN: We left home on a Wednesday and flew out of Louisville to San Jose. When we arrived, we went to the hotel, checked in, and went straight to practice, where I met all the coaches for the first time in person. After that, we just watched practice for the first couple days of my visit. Then, on Friday and Saturday, we had the Junior Day events.
The whole time I was at Stanford, I just did pretty much the same thing as the Stanford players did as far as football goes. I went to all the meetings and watched all the film with the players. I went to all the practices and pretty much got the full experience while I was there.

AD: What were the impressions of your recruiting coach Willie Taggart and the rest of the Stanford coaching staff?
TN: I love Coach Taggart – he's a great guy. He played a big role in me making my decision. I think he played college football with my high school coach, which was kind of a cool connection. He's just an all-around good guy.

Coach Harbaugh is obviously really high energy and a lot of fun, but gets the job done with that blue-collar mentality. The other coaches I interacted with, especially [offensive line and tight end coach Greg] Roman and [offensive line coach Tim] Drevno, were just really knowledgeable about the game. I really got along well with Coach Roman by sitting in on meetings, just learning from him and trying to pick stuff up quickly.

AD: What position did the coaching staff say they were recruiting you for?
TN: They're recruiting me as a tight end. I'm going to come in and compete as a tight end, and whatever happens from there happens. They talked about tackle and they talked about other positions. It depends on how I come in and develop but as of now I'm coming in as a tight end.

I don't really have a preference for any position; I just for feel more comfortable at tight end at this point. Tackle could be in my future, but we just don't know for sure until I get there.

AD: How did you go about committing to the Stanford coaches?
TN: The first coach I told was Coach Harbaugh. When we got to practice on Sunday, we were kind of late. The players were getting warmed up, doing special teams and throwing the ball around, and I went up to Coach Harbaugh and told him that Stanford is where I want to play my college football. He shook my hand and gave me a hug. That was really cool. Then I went ahead and told my recruiter, Coach Willie Taggart, and he was really exited about it. It spread through the grapevine and the rest of the coaches found out that way.

AD: What other offers did you have? What other schools were showing interest in you?
TN: I had offers from Louisville, Stanford, Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Indiana. Vanderbilt, Maryland, Ohio State and Western Kentucky [were showing interest.]

AD: Why did you decide to end your recruitment early?
TN: I didn't think there was another team in the country that could possibly compete with what Stanford has to offer. Because my mom was a teacher, we place a lot of importance on academics in my household. It was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up. It wasn't just a four-year decision – getting a degree from Stanford was a 40-year decision. That was something that really played into making my decision early.

AD: What was the hardest school for you to turn down?
TN: Kentucky. I had it narrowed down to Stanford and Kentucky before making my final decision. Kentucky's a great school in my home state, and that's where most of the people around here wanted me to go, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity of Stanford. That was the toughest part.

AD: What kind of player are you?
TN: Right now, I'm about 6'7, 240. I'm a pretty good blocker and I can move people pretty well. I do very well on the short to intermediate passing routes -- I think that's where I make my money mostly.

I haven't run a 40-yard dash in three or four months, so I couldn't even give you a reasonable estimate on that, but I bench press about 290 pounds right now and squat about 375.

AD: What are some of your off-the-field interests?
TN: I play basketball for my school. Usually, I'm playing AAU ball and traveling all over the country, but I decided not to do that and focus on getting ready for my senior year by lifting and running for football. I'm a member of the National Honor Society. I'm very active in my church group, and I just hang out with friends.

AD: Have you been able to speak with other commits or potential commits in the 2010 recruiting class?
TN: I'm already taking care of that. I've been talking to a lot of guys as far as recruiting. I've talked to a lot of guys from the 2009 class too. So it's like a big family. I've talked to almost all the guys from the 2010 class. We pretty much do that. We're trying to build a strong class for us as a team, because it affects everyone.

AD: What influence did your family have in your recruitment?
TN: They kind of steered me in the right direction. They really like Stanford -- that's where they wanted me to go -- but they said that it ultimately had to be my decision, because I'm the one who's going to have to live with it for four or five years. They told me the facts and laid out on the table what they thought, but ultimately it had to come down to what I wanted to do.

AD: How solid is your commitment to Stanford and do you plan on taking any other visits?
TN: As far as other visits go, I'm probably going to go to some other places, but none have been decided yet. As of now, my commitment is very solid. Stanford is where I want to go, and it's where I plan on playing college football. I really don't think at this point there's much that can change my mind. That's always to be seen but I'm fully committed, 100 percent.

AD: What are some of your goals for senior year?
TN: I really want to have a big senior year because I didn't have the year I wanted to have last year and didn't accomplish a lot of my goals. As far as this year goes, I definitely want to make the All-State team and all that good stuff. The goal every year for every high school team should be to go to the State Championship. That's what we're shooting for and what we hope to do. All I can do is work my hardest to accomplish that.

As far as school goes, just keeping my grades up and hopefully getting accepted to Stanford. I'll hopefully get the application in the next couple of months.

AD: What subject are you looking to major in?
TN: Right now, I really don't know. I was leaning towards political science with business. Those are both really broad and I haven't narrowed it down, but I'm sure it's going to change by the time I get to college anyways, so we'll see.

AD: What are some of your academic numbers?
TN: The staff told me I had a 3.4 Stanford GPA, because they calculate that differently then they do regular GPA like in high school. I have a 25 on my ACT. I haven't taken the SAT, but I think my mom signed me up for it, although I'm not sure when the date is.

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