As the season approaches BlueRaiderZone.com will take an inside look at each of the positions. Today…
Damon Nickson: Senior Spotlight
The first interview of our nineteen part series is with Damon Nickson. Nickson is a fourth year starter, and returning All-American. He has already become one of the most decorated stars in recent MT history. He is a very special talent, and has already been tabbed as the Sunbelt Conference preseason defensive player of the year.
Blue Raider Zone: How does it feel, knowing that you only have one season left at MT?
Damon Nickson: My last season? Well, I'm happy about it, but I'm sad about it. I love college football. It's something that I always dreamed of doing, and now it's coming to an end. It feels like I just got on campus, like four months ago, and now I'm almost done.
BRZ: What are your plans after you're done playing college football?
Damon Nickson: Everybody's dream is to play at the next level. If I could play football until I was 40 years old, then I would play until I'm 40. I just love the game, and I just love the atmosphere. You can always keep learning in football; there's always something that you don't know. There's something new to learn everyday. I just love the game and hope to be around it for a long time.
BRZ: Do you want to coach, when your playing days are over?
Damon Nickson: Most definitely, I would want to coach and pass on some of the knowledge that I have been given. I've learned a lot from the coaches that I've had here.
BRZ: What made you choose MT?
Damon Nickson: Coach Andy McCollum and Coach Hinshaw started recruiting me during my junior year. They were really the first ones that started looking at me, and that played a lot in my decision. I still love Coach Mac to death. He's still a very special person to me, because he brought me in and gave me my first look.
BRZ: How has your leadership role changed in your four years at MT?
Damon Nickson: I feel like I've matured a lot. It's changed with me becoming a player that the coaches want to call on when they need a big play. You want to make plays, because it's most important to step up in a leadership role on the field. I think that my ability to make plays has changed the way I lead a lot.
BRZ: What has been your best moment so far at Middle Tennessee?
Damon Nickson: I think watching our girls win the conference in basketball four years in a row. It kind of puts pressure on us. I think it gives us a great opportunity to step up, and start winning games. Then we can start trying to compete with them, because right now they are the face of the school. I think with us being conference football co-champs it will help our University rise to the next level.
BRZ: You talk about watching the Lady Raiders. I have personally seen you at just about every one of their home games.
Damon Nickson: I love the way they play! Coach Insell has come in and they have the attitude that they are going to play defense, and trap, and press, and run. It's exciting to see games like that. I love watching them turn the other team over, and getting fast break baskets. I just love the kind of basketball that our women's basketball team plays. It's a really exciting brand of basketball.
BRZ: I've also seen you at baseball games, and men's basketball games. You really seem to enjoy supporting your fellow student athletes.
Damon Nickson: I feel like to get support; you've got to give support. I love sports, and I love the outdoors. I like any kind of sport. I could just sit and watch golf on TV. I love Middle Tennessee. I feel like it's important for us to go out and support the other sports because we definitely want their support.
BRZ: Going to all the different sporting events around campus you get to take in a wide view of the Middle Tennessee fan base. How do you feel about our fans?
Damon Nickson: I feel like our fan base is definitely growing, just like our school. In the four years that I've been here this place has taken a 180 degree turn-around. The school is growing, and we have a lot more fans. Murfreesboro is growing, and is really becoming a great college town. In a few years, I say 2010 or 2015 we'll be able to compete with any other school in the country.
BRZ: Who has been your most influential teammate?
Damon Nickson: I really look up to Keon Raymond. I look up to the way he is leading his life. He came back and he finished his degree, and he's still chasing his dream. He's playing in the Arena League right now, but I'm sure that one day he'll get another shot at the NFL level.
BRZ: What do you feel that you must do to be successful in the upcoming season?
Damon Nickson: You always have individual goals. I want to have 70 tackles and 9 interceptions, but winning is more important. As a team, as long as we win I don't think anything else matters. Of course there are always personal goals; personally I want to return 6 kicks for touchdowns, but winning as a team overshadows any individual accomplishment.
BRZ: Speaking of returning kicks, that brings me to my next question. How has your life changed since you returned that opening kick against Louisville on national TV?
Damon Nickson: A lot more people recognize me now. People will be like, "You're Damon Nickson." I still don't really see a difference. I've been Damon Nickson for 21 years. Of course it's gotten my name out there. A handful of people recognize me now. It's good, it gets overwhelming from time to time, but it comes with the territory.
BRZ: How does it feel to know that you're one of the faces of this football program, and this university?
Damon Nickson: It feels good. We're trying to build the foundation of a great program, and with the new program come a new attitude. You can't just be successful on the field, but you also have to succeed in the classroom. That's a big part of being a student athlete. I feel that for us to grow as a team and as a university we need to be successful in everything we do.
BRZ: How has becoming an All-American motivated you to continue to get better?
Damon Nickson: It motivates me; it helps me set my goals. At the beginning of last season you couldn't have told me that I'd be an All-American I wouldn't have believed it. It means a lot, but it's just an accolade that you can't let go to your head. You can't get complacent with the success, I have to keep working and keep striving.
BRZ: Is there a game, on the schedule that you have circled on your calendar? Is there a specific game that you're really looking forward to?
Damon Nickson: I'd have to say that I've circled the Troy game. The last game left a real bitter taste in my mouth, in all of our mouths. It happened for a reason, we went to the Motor City Bowl, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I am definitely looking forward to the Troy game. I'm also really looking forward to the FAU game, because it's a conference game and it's the first game of the season. We have to start off on the right foot if we're going to win an outright Sunbelt Championship.
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