Q&A: Jayson Nickson talks Edinboro, alma mater and grandma…

By | October 7, 2011 11:52 pm | 0 Comments

 

Senior Jayson Nickson has been a four-year starter for Slippery Rock.

In a continuing series of Q&As with local players who are playing local college football, Duane Rankin caught up with Slippery Rock senior safety Jayson Nickson to talk about several topics.

An Mercyhurst Prep graduate, Nickson has been a four-year starter for the Rock. This season, the 5-foot, 9-inch, 170-pound fifth-year senior has 16 tackles and two interceptions to help Slippery Rock begin the season 4-1.

The Rock are 2-0 in the PSAC West heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at No. 25-ranked Edinboro (4-1, 1-1).

Talking to Nickson this week on the phone, Rankin asked him about playing against the Rock’s most hated rival – the Scots – the success of his old high school and the recent passing of one of his biggest inspirations – his grandmother, Jean Nickson.

You guys have had strong starts and haven’t finished the way you would like so how big is this game to keep momentum going? “This game is huge because it’s against a great opponent like Edinboro. They’re ranked No. 25 so being able to play a team like this is a great opportunity. We usually start (the season) off great, but sometimes it doesn’t end so well. Playing a team like this and possibly getting a win would be what we need to keep this train rolling.”

Jayson Nickson was second on the team in total tackles last season with 72 stops./SRU sports information.

This is one of the bigger rivalries in the conference. Why do you think that is? “It’s usually always a close game. You look at years past, we both have great traditions. Great programs. When we get together, it’s a fight to the finish. It’s a dog fight. People love these type of games and people love to watch these type of games.”

Nickson was an all-state tailback at Mercyhurst Prep in 2006./ETN file photo.

Edinboro has always put a big green (painted) rock in their football office for this week. They call it “Rock Week” Is there any sort of symbol or thing in the Slippery Rock offices or lockerroom to signify you’re playing Edinboro? “We don’t have anything physically, but we constantly, constantly annouce that this is game of such high stature.”

With this being your last year at Slippery Rock, how do you think your career has gone? “I just got to thank God. Without him, none of this is possible. I was able to be a four-year starter here and I’m just trying to come out on top as a senior. We have a strong senior class. Great leadership and we know we have to talent to do what we’re capable of doing and that’s winning the conference championship. We’ve just been working so hard. It’s not just me. I’m just thankful that God has put me  here and allowed me to start my four years and meet such great people and coaches and players and teammates. I would like to come out on top for them.”

How many family members are going to be at the game Saturday? “I’m not sure. I hope a lot. I love my family. I enjoy it when they see me play. I love having them in the stands for me so I’m hoping they all can make it up.”

Who is the family member that will come that regardless of how loud the crowd is, you will hear that relative at the game? “That’s a funny question because my family are all loud people. (Laughing). I know my uncle Ken Nickson, he’s a very strong supporter. My inspiration. The only reason I play this great game of football. I love my mom (Jamie Martin-Stewart). She’s a great supporter of mine. The biggest one is my grandmother (Jean Nickson). If you don’t know, she had just recently passed away this Monday and she was supposed to be at this game. She was planning on going and unfortunately, she can’t but I know she’ll be there Saturday. I know she’ll be watching and I just can’t wait to play for  her one last time and hopefully come out with the victory.”

Jean Nickson

(Jean Nickson’s funeral was Friday. She was 62 years old)

I’m sorry to hear that. What did she mean to you? “She means the world to me. My grandmother was one of my biggest supporters. She always told me don’t ever let anybody put you down and saying that you’re too small to play this game and that you’re too small to play safety. She was just always very supportive. A big fan of Rock football as well as Mercyhurst Prep football and St. John’s football. She was always into my athletics and just really pushed me to strive to be the best. She is part of the reason I am who I am today.”

How old was she? “I believe she was 59 or 60. (Jean Nickson was born Jan. 18, 1949). She never revealed her age. She was just always happy to be here another year. She didn’t like to talk about getting old.”

Let’s talk about Mercyhurst Prep. Your high school hadn’t lost a regular-season in like 200 years it seemed. Can you explain as an alum the secret for Prep’s success? (Mercyhurst Prep had won 24 straight regular-season games before losing last week at Youngsville.) “The reason why we’ve been so successful is the great coaching staff we’ve had there at Mercyhurst Prep. Before Coach (Matt) Morgan and those guys came in, there wasn’t a high confidence level. When they came in, they really raised our confidence. That team now, the confidence they have in themselves and the program is unbelievable.

Nickson has two interceptions this season./SRU photo.

“I love going to their practices because I remember the days when we were down and we didn’t believe in ourselves. That coaching staff has picked us up and you can see, confidence is everything. It’s a state of mind. Your mind is the strongest asset of your body and when you believe you can do something, it’s limitless. The confidence has really risen and that is why Mercyhurst is so successful. It’s because of the confidence the players have in themselves and the coaches.”

Since you’ve been playing college ball, you don’t a chance to see much high school football? What was the last Mercyhurst Prep game you saw? Unfortunately, the last game I went to was the District 10 championship ( lost to Farrell), but it was great for me to be there and see my guys make it all way to the championship. I was able to go to both of them. The one that we won (in 2007) and unfortunately, we lost last year, but even seeing where our program has gone and to even get there was huge for me. Very touching and very inspiring.”

I always like to ask players when you’re getting ready for a game, what do you pregame to get in that right mental state? “One thing I do is after the team comes together and we put the second-team guys in to finish warming up, I tend to separate myself from the team and just clear my mind. I have a prayer session with God. I just pray and thank him for the ability he’s given me to play this great game of football and continue my education here at Slippery Rock. I just thank him for the opportunity. I just think back to all the workouts that I’ve been doing all summer long and just thank God for being able to put me through that and get me through here and keeping me healthy. That’s the No. 1 thing I do before each and every game. Just pray and thank God for it.”

Last thing. You told me  you grandmother will be watching you. How are you going to be feeling? She was supposed to be there. She’s not there. She’s with you in spirit. Watching from up above. Will you have something special to say in prayer before the game? “I’ll be thanking God for taking her home. She’s in a better place. She’s a very holy woman. Very happy person. I’m going to be very happy because I know she’s happy and I know she can’t wait to see me play as well as see our family get together for it. I just know my grandmother was so happy all the time, it’s just going to put a spirit in me and bless with the happy spirit that she had and help me play well on Saturday.”

 

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