Cassville alum helps Lions win

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Missouri Southern Lion and for Cassville Wildcat Ricky Nichols relies on the values and lessons learned in high school to help him on the college gridiron. Jacob Brower

Nichols competing for college playing time

JOPLIN -- Whether it's signaling plays, holding for the kicker, or playing on kickoff and punt coverage units, former Cassville star Ricky Nichols is doing anything possible to help his team win.

Nichols, a Missouri Southern junior, is well acclimated to the difference between the high school and college game.

"It is a change from when I played at Cassville," Nichols said. "All of these kids can run and the game is more physical."

Despite playing on a higher level, the lessons Nichols learned at home have helped him stay focused at college.

"Coach (David) Large and Coach (Lance) Parnell made this transition pretty easy," Nichols said. "Our practices at Cassville and their expectations are similar to what we got through here."

While an academic junior, Nichols is a red-shirt sophomore after sitting out in 2012.

In 2013, he appeared in all 10 Lions' games at wide receiver as a redshirt freshman. He had one carry for five yards in Southern's win over Central Missouri and returned kickoffs and punts, where he totaled four kickoff returns for 87 yards and four punt returns for 46 yards.

Nichols netted a season-long 27 yard kickoff return in the Lions' season-opening win over Central Oklahoma and netted a season-best 22-yard punt return in a win at home over Lincoln.

This season, Nichols has scored a 2 points for the Lions on a fake extra point attempt.

"We had a large group of junior college transfers and I am battling every day for playing time," Nichols said, "I am willing to do anything to help the team. If that is holding for the kicker or making a play on special teams, that is what I am going to do."

At Cassville, Nichols was a coaches' association first-team All-State athlete as a senior. He rushed for 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns, while throwing for 700 and 10 passing touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for scores his senior season.

Nichols is majoring in physical education.