MONROEVILLE, Pa. – During his speech, Top247 defensive back/receiver Montae Nicholson took a minute to thank his grandfather and uncle for their military service before thanking the U.S. Army for his All-American jersey on Tuesday afternoon at Gateway High.
Nicholson is ranked by the 247Composite as the nation's No. 11 safety prospect.
Jim Gray was on stage and up close to see his grandson achieve the highest honor a high school football player can receive. Kevin Gray is currently overseas.
“I love them to death,” Nicholson said. “Just to represent them means the world to me. I’ve been patiently waiting for my uncle to come back. He’s been to Kuwait, he’s been to Afghanistan, Iraq. I’m just waiting for him to come home.
“I think he is going to the game. That will definitely be a treat not only for me but for our family.”
The 14th annual U.S. Army All-American will be played inside the Alamo Dome on Jan. 4 in San Antonio Texas. NBC will have the national broadcast.
“It’s tremendous,” Nicholson said. “Definitely a blessing. I’ve known for a while, but this day, I can’t even imagine what the game is going to feel like. It’s outstanding.
Over 40,000 people, many of them in Army uniform, have attended the game the last two years.
“Electric, definitely electric,” Nicholson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it. Everybody plays down there, but my goal is to start. Definitely go down there and have fun and ball out.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Nicholson is ranked by the 247Composite as the nation’s No. 11 safety and No. 182 prospect overall. He is hoping to make a college decision before Christmas, and took official visits to Florida State, Michigan State, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.
“Special kind of an athlete,” Gateway head football coach Donnie Militzer said. “We teased him and called him Megatron because he looked like Calvin Johnson on the high school level. Just a special kind of athlete offensively and defensively. Just pretty much un-guardable on offense and on defense held down the secondary. You’re going to see an incredible athlete. It’s not often you have a kid that is 6-3, 210 pounds and comes in second in the state in the 300 hurdles.”
Nicholson’s mother Jackie Crawford was also on stage where she was all smiles and shed a tear as her son gave his speech.
“He’s done a great job,” she said. Nicholson does a lot of community service and mentoring for his mother’s non-profit and even gives fencing lessons during the summer. “He’s a hard worker. When he plays, whatever he does, he gives it his all. He’s dedicated. He’s a strong young man.
“It’s just a special, special time for all of us. I’m excited for him because he’s worked hard to be at this point and what a way to end your high school career playing in the U.S. Army All-American game.”
Nicholson didn’t rule out any future visits before he decides, but with his basketball schedule getting on the road will be tough.
“I have an idea as far as committing wise but I’m not sure,” Nicholson said, before giving a quick thought on each school he visited. He spoke more about the Hokies as they were his latest visit.
Florida State: “Great program, great academics, players, it’s like a brotherhood down there.”
Michigan State: “Great coaching, great coaches, they don’t blow any smoke.”
Oregon: “The first thing I think about with Oregon is fast. The coaches as well, all of them I’ve built a relationship with.”
Pitt: “Very genuine. Very, very genuine. It’s the hometown, it just feels like home honestly because it is home.”
Virginia Tech: “It’s definitely an eye opener, a very big eye opener,” Nicholson said of his official visit over the weekend. “I liked what Coach (Frank) Beamer said. Just because they lost that game it won’t affect them next week. The togetherness is ridiculous down there and they’re still trying to go to the ACC championship and that shows a lot
“It definitely helped Virginia Tech a lot. Honestly I didn’t expect everything that happened and how things went down there but it definitely went well.”
Nicholson added that he also remains in contact with Georgia Tech, Miami and Temple.