September 27, 2012
Edmonton Eskimos QB Matt Nichols eager to lead
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
You don't need to see Matt Nichols's arm on display out on the field to get a sense of what kind of quarterback he is.
And it's a good thing, too, because the third-year pivot has yet to make a single start in a CFL regular-season game.
But with both Kerry Joseph and Steven Jyles on the mend from leg injuries, that is all about to change Friday against the rival Calgary Stampeders (8 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).
Even before Nichols takes to the field at McMahon Stadium, one look at his throwing arm shows a white bracelet that offers a potential look into the 25-year-old's future.
The word Ôleadership' is etched into the material.
And if there is indeed a wind of change blowing through the Eskimos locker-room in a season that saw the departure of franchise quarterback and future Hall of Famer Ricky Ray, then perhaps it's no coincidence to see that trait manifest on an up-and-coming young throwing arm.
"For my first couple years of college I was even a little bit more hot-tempered than I am now, so I always used to tape my wrist and write leadership on it," said the Eastern Washington product, who played with CFL tackles leader J.C. Sherritt as well as former Eskimos defensive end Greg Peach.
In the little he has played this year Ñ after spending time on the practice squad and hidden on the injured list in his two previous seasons in Edmonton Ñ Nichols has shown a coolness in both the pocket and in the public eye, but a fire in the huddle that Eskimos players and fans alike weren't used to seeing during the Ray era.
"Guys are different on and off the field so you'll probably see a little bit different side of me that a lot of the teammates haven't seen from me before," Nichols said. "It's a competitive spirit, wanting to win, wanting to be successful on every play.
"I would say I'm level-headed, but also I get fired up to get people excited. I've always been taught my whole life as a quarterback that guys look to you and they feed off a quarterback."
The last time Nichols sat down to feast as a starter was a college playoff game in November 2009.
Fast-forward three years and the ball is getting put back in his hands in time for the Eskimos playoff stretch, where they are looking to break a four-game losing streak.
"It's a big deal and basically says a lot of the confidence the coaches have in me if they decide to have me playing," Nichols said. "I'm going to try to do everything I can to make that decision the right one."
The next step is turning that confidence into some on-field leadership.
But there is also an underside to that same bracelet.
"My wife actually bought me this for our anniversary and put Ôleadership' on it," Nichols said of his spouse, Ali. "And she has a tattoo that says: ÔOne love,' on her foot, so she put that on the bracelet also.
"Basically, it's for my wife and just to kind of remind myself that they guys are looking to the quarterback to be a leader. It's just a daily reminder."
Of both his true loves: family and football.