Now he has a chance, however small, for football to continue being the biggest part of his life.
Daniel Nichols just finished his senior season with the Savage Storm, and will be one of two Southeastern representatives at the Cactus Bowl, an NCAA Division II senior bowl game, on January 8, 2010 in Kingsville, Tx.
“I didn’t really expect to play in it,” Nichols said. “I didn’t make All-Region so I figured there were some guys better than me. But I got my invitation and I’m excited about it.”
The game features Division II players from all over the country, who are there for not only the game, but to take part in drills and tests for NFL scouts, who will be there looking for potential players for the NFL draft.
“It’s going to be great to go there and work out for those guys, but I’m realistic about my chances of going on to play at the next level.”
Nichols was adopted when he was six months old and was one of seven children adopted into his family.
“We were a big, kind of awkward looking family,” he said. “I used to be embarrassed about it, because we would go to Wal-Mart or Albertson’s and be together and none of us kids looked like each other.”
After spending the first few years of his life in Tulsa, the family moved to Cooper, Tx., just south of Paris.
“We weren’t really allowed to play football because my mom thought it was too dangerous,” Nichols said. But with the help of an older brother, Nichols was finally given Mom’s approval to play his sophomore year.
He was more into basketball though and didn’t play his junior year. But when the basketball coach left the team, Nichols was compelled to play football again as a senior.
Missing his junior year of football greatly affected the number of schools interested in giving him a scholarship to play in college.
“We sent out some videos, but I only heard back from a couple of schools,” Nichols said. “At that point I was thinking that maybe I was just going to be a student.”
However, an athletic director at a neighboring school had graduated from Southeastern, and knew the defensive coordinator here, told him about Nichols, and so he stopped to visit with Nichols on the way back from a Texas recruiting trip.
“I came up for a visit, really liked it, and got a little scholarship offer,” he said. “It was close to home and I didn’t have too many other options. Southeastern was the only school to offer me a scholarship.”
Once here Nichols played in five or six games as a freshman, then moved into a starting role as a sophomore, where he stayed throughout the remainder of his career.
He developed into the Storm’s “go to” guy at wide receiver, catching 59 passes his sophomore year, 33 as a junior and a career best 72 this season.
“I think coaching had a lot to do with my success while I was here,” Nichols said. “I watched a lot of guys not make it through their whole four years and tried to learn from their mistakes.
“I kept my grades up and stayed out of trouble so I could continue to play.”
After playing in the Cactus Bowl, Nichols plans are to return to Southeastern and finish his degree, with graduation scheduled for May.
He will graduate with a degree in Social Studies Education, and plans to teach history and coach after graduation. Even after all the football, basketball is still prevalent in his future plans.
“I guess going back to high school, I still like basketball over football and would like to coach girls’ basketball. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in the sport,” he said.