Nichols ended the shortened season as the league’s leader in interceptions while also playing a great deal from the slot which is still a position with a penciled in question mark for the Saints. Let’s just right into the conversation:
Deuce: This will be your second run into the NFL, after spending some time with the Arizona Cardinals, in what ways did the XFL help you grow to help you be more prepared this time around?
Nichols: I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to play in the XFL. I’m really happy I took that opportunity to play football again. I really wish we could have finished the season – we were doing something special in Houston. There were good guys with talent in the league. Guys really got to test their skills. The special team changes were very different but it was interesting as well.
Deuce: Tell me a bit about playing in the XFL, and being the interception leader. You definitely made a splash and were one of the players a lot of people slotted to make it into the NFL because of their time there. How did the XFL compare to the NFL?
Nichols: [The] XFL was a very organized league and I had fun. The times in the locker room with the guys is always something that can’t be recreated. Compared to the NFL, the XFL is on the right track. Obviously the main difference is just that the XFL is starting and the NFL is established. So the crowd sizes, tv coverage and attention is different but ball is always ball and the other players in the XFL are all capable of playing in the NFL.
Deuce: The Saints love versatility in their players. Special teams is one of the easiest ways to win Coach Payton over. How much emphasis do you put on special teams vs playing defense?
Nichols: Special teams is 1/3 of a football game. Field position is everything in this game. You’ll get way more respect and love from your teammates and coaches off making plays on special teams. I know special teams is going to be my path to making the Saints roster. The first day I get in the building I am going to the special teams coach and introducing myself. It’s a great feeling to run down the field and make a tackle before the 25. Special teams is the way you make a NFL roster!
Deuce: Sounds like you’ve already got a pretty solid plan of what to do when you walk into the facility. Who has been your favorite coach to play for so far in your career, and why?
Nichols: I can’t Really say I have a favorite coach. But, I can say I love playing for coaches that bring that dog out of you.
Deuce: Here’s a follow up to this last one, and I know as a player you get asked this type of question too many times over the course of your career (lol). What player(s) do you model your game after?
Nichols: I don’t try compare myself to players because everyone is different. I try to bring my own juice to the table but I do enjoy how Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas play the game.
Deuce: Alright, Coach Allen has called Cover 3 Match. Got you as the nickel/sub here coming in due to a player injury. So you’re fresh into the game. It’s 3rd down. You’re going against Tampa, in the dome, so you know everyone’s working on a fast field. Tom Brady lines everyone up in the gun in a 2x2, and they’ve got Chris Godwin lined up in the slot here on the hash trying to draw a mismatch against you. Your assignment is Match #2, Vert or out. All I wanna know is what is going through your mind at this very moment. You. Brady. Godwin. First NFL regular-season snap with the Saints.
Nichols: Being able to face a guy like Brady and knowing most likely it’s coming your way. This is a perfect time to make a story for your grandkids. However, my mind set in football is “stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.”
Deuce: What is your favorite anime?
Nichols: I don’t really watch any anime.
Deuce: Awww man, no anime? Lot of the defensive lockerroom are definitely down. Cameron Jordan, Demario David and Marcus Davenport come to mind. Alright, what about this one, Playstation or Xbox?
Deuce: Favorite bar(s)? You can hit me with one-liners, 8 bar, whatever. Was just listening to some old school last night. Rakim dropped one of the best ever with this one, “I start to think and then I sink Into the paper like I was ink When I’m writing, I’m trapped in between the lines I escape when I finish the rhyme.”
Nichols: “What’s the sense of having muscles if you don’t flex” - Jeezy
Deuce: Trap or Die 2. Good album! Recession was one of my favorites from the 2000s. He actually just put out a new album with Shawty Redd producing. What are you watching on Netflix right now?
Nichols: I’m old school on Netflix and am watching All about the Benjamins and Paid in Full .
As always, have to give a big thank to Mr. Nichols for taking the time to chat with me, especially with the current situation around the world. Even though the conversation and questions were brief it’s always interesting to get to know a player a little bit. Even though it was short, I loved his answer to the tough question I threw at him with the scenario of Brady and Godwin.
“Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.”
That, combined with his determination to make an impact on special teams as soon as he enters the building would seem to bode well for the young defensive back trying to earn his second shot in the NFL.
With aging veterans like Patrick Robinson manning the slot position there’s definitely an opportunity for Nichols to carve out a roster spot and maybe even earn some snaps.