Jan. 21, 2012
Michigan State fifth-year senior wide receiver Keith Nichol, who set career highs for catches (26), receiving yards (352) and touchdown receptions (3) in 2011, will represent the American team in Saturday's National Football Players Association Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. The NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) will televise the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. EST.
Following Thursday's practice, Nichol participated in a Q&A with msuspartans.com.
Q: Can you provide us with a practice update and what kind of feedback you have received from the American coaching staff?
A: The coaches have been really positive this week. They've commented that they like the way I come in and out of my breaks while running routes and the way I extend for the football. They like the fact that I aggressively go after the football and simply don't wait for it to come to me. They also say they like my size and toughness.
Q: Is there any added pressure in practice this week knowing that every move you make is being evaluated?
A: That's huge. It reminds me of entering my first preseason camp as a freshman. You simply can't relax. I'm not an established player, so I'm out to prove myself. This is my opportunity to showcase everything I can do on the football field. I want to showcase my blocking ability as well as the way I run routes and screens. I want to make myself the most complete wide receiver here at this all-star game.
I want to have fun, but I can't relax because things are going 100 miles per hour.
Q: With a short week of practice, how difficult is it to develop any type of rhythm, chemistry with the American quarterbacks?
A: That's the hardest thing because I played with Kirk (Cousins) for so many years. We worked so closely together that I knew that he was thinking, how fast he'd make his drop, how hard or soft he'd throw the ball depending on the route. These quarterbacks do different things, so everything is a little different. It's definitely been an adjustment, but I want to take advantage of all my opportunities here. The timing will come around. Everyone is going through the same adjustments.
Q: You'll have an opportunity in Saturday's all-star game to improve your NFL Draft status. Have you established any personal goals?
A: Saturday, I want to wrap up this process on a high note and perform at a high level. Regardless of the playing rotation, I want every route, every catch and every block to look good. I've had a good week of practice and I've received a lot of positive feedback. I want to finish strong and leave an impression with all of the NFL scouts that I'm a kid that they need on their team.
Q: Can you identify some of your American teammates who have impressed you in practice this week?
A: Lavasier Tuinei, a receiver from Oregon, has impressed me the most this week. He's a long guy at 6-5, 215. He has a long, smooth stride like B.J. Cunningham. Lavasier has patient hands and runs crisp routes. We've worked together a lot this week, concentrating on the little things.
Q: What has it been like this week to work with former NFL head coach Tom Flores, who lead the Raiders to two Super Bowl Championships?
A: This has been a really good experience. Coach Flores has talked to me a lot this week. He has spent a lot of one-on-one time with me, both on and off the field. He's a valuable resource because he has seen it all and been through it all. You can really tell how much Coach Flores enjoys being around the game. He truly loves the game and the atmosphere that surrounds it.
Earlier this week, msuspartans.com also had an opportunity to interview American head coach Tom Flores.
Q: How has Keith Nichol performed in practice this week?
A: I've been impressed by watching him this week - both during one-on-one drills and in team periods. Keith is a bright kid with a great attitude. He has a good feel for running routes. In fact, he looks so natural at the position that you'd never know that he spent the first half of his college career playing quarterback. I really like him; he's built like a football player. You can certainly tell that he comes from a good football program.
Q: Talk about the unique mission of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
A: This is a pretty neat concept. The NFLPA has brought in a number of NFL alumni to lecturer players on the transition from college and how to conduct themselves as pros in the real world. This approach helps create an atmosphere in which the players take pride in the game as well as respect the game. In addition, the facilities here at the Home Depot Center are simply unbelievable.