Just a season ago, Montae Nicholson was picking off opposing Big Ten quarterbacks as Michigan State’s standout safety. Now, he’s intercepting NFL Pro Bowl players on national television.
Here’s what you need to know about the Redskins rookie defensive back:
Montae Nicholson has never made first- or second-team All-Big Ten
Many NFL players made their respective all-conference teams in college. Not Nicholson, who spent three seasons at Michigan State. The highest honor he received was honorable mention All-Big Ten as a junior in 2016.
Still, Nicholson decided it was in his best interest to declare for the NFL draft after that season. The move, at least so far, appears to have paid off.
Montae Nicholson was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft
While Nicholson’s on-field performance didn’t translate to all-conference honors, his skillset enticed the Redskins enough for them to label him as one of their top-rated safeties.
And with Nicholson still available in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they scooped him up with the 123rd overall pick.
“Montae was sitting there and it was kind of a position of need,” Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters after the draft. “But also, he was one of our top-rated safeties and we decided to take him.”
Nicholson and defensive end Malik McDowell, the Seattle Seahawks’ second-round pick, were the two Michigan State players drafted.
Montae Nicholson underwent surgery 2 days after the NFL draft combine
At the 2017 NFL Combine in March, Nicholson turned in a 35-inch vertical jump and 125-inch broad jump. His 40-yard dash time was 4.42 seconds, which was the third fastest among safeties in attendance.
Two days later, he had left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Nicholson spent the offseason months rehabbing, and the Redskins limited him during the first two weeks of training camp. But on Aug. 13, about month before the season opener versus Philadelphia, Nicholson fully participated in practice. He suited up for that game, playing three defensive snaps and 18 on special teams, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Montae Nicholson intercepted his first pass in his third career NFL game
It didn’t take long for Nicholson to make his presence felt on the Redskins starting defense. On the first play of his third career NFL game, the 6-foot-2, 216-pound safety did this:
— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2017
The Redskins didn’t know how effective Nicholson would be for the Sunday Night Football showdown after he left the contest against the Rams the week before with a shoulder injury. It turned out Nicholson was dealing with a AC joint sprain.
Nevertheless, Nicholson showed the injury wouldn’t hider his performance.
Unforeseen circumstances have propelled Montae Nicholson into a starting role
Entering the season, the Redskins expected Su’a Cravens to start at strong safety. Then, circumstances changed.
A week before the Redskins’ season opener, Cravens said he was pondering retirement after one season. The announcement prompted the Redskins to put the 22-year-old on the exempt/left squad list and reopen their search for a starting strong safety.
So far, Nicholson has done enough to assume that responsibility.
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