Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

He's Clearing Major Hurdles Gators Athlete a Standout on Football Field and Track

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

He's Clearing Major Hurdles Gators Athlete a Standout on Football Field and Track

Article excerpt

On a mid-November evening in 2011, the 9-2 Gateway High School football team was preparing for a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal game later in the week against defending state champion North Allegheny.

At one point during the practice, Thomas Woodson, the team's junior quarterback, unloaded a 60-yard pass down the field that looked to be out of the reach of one of the Gators' sophomore backup receivers.

But what receivers coach Loran Cooley witnessed over the next few seconds made his jaw drop.

"I thought there was just no way he was going to catch the ball," Cooley said. "But he had like seven gears and made a circus one- handed catch. It was ridiculous and I knew we had something special."

That receiver was Montae Nicholson, who Rivals.com ranks as the No. 1 rising senior in Pennsylvania, and who now has 33 NCAA Division I football offers after a breakout junior campaign on the gridiron.

He also won the WPIAL 110-meters hurdles championship and finished second in the event at the PIAA meet.

All of which leads Nicholson to be selected as the Post-Gazette East Xtra Male High School Athlete of the Year.

It's quite a rise for someone who had trouble even getting on the field during his sophomore season.

"It really all started with that week of the North Allegheny game," Cooley said. "He had the typical growing pains that any sophomore goes through. We have a complex scheme and it was just a matter of him learning the system and getting adjusted to Quad-A football."

Nicholson isn't upset that he didn't start his sophomore season. In fact, he is thankful that former Gateway coach Terry Smith let him sit and learn.

"Coach Terry had everything to do with my development," Nicholson said. "My sophomore year, he didn't think I was ready. And when I look back at it, he was right and I appreciate why he did that because I was able to work on my skills. …

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