Friday, March 20, 2009
Nickson hopes to showcase versatility
By Ryan Schulz - Antwaan Randle El, Joshua Cribbs and Brad Smith. These are just a few players who starred at quarterback in college and have successfully made the transition to another position in the NFL. Former Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson hopes he can join this list of names by proving to NFL personnel that he is much more than just a quarterback.
Nickson’s proving ground began Friday when he took to the practice field at Vanderbilt’s annual pro day. Instead of making the passes, Nickson was catching them. It was a different look for Nickson, who accumulated more than 3,400 yards through the air and 1,400 yards on the ground at Vanderbilt, but it was a look he knows will give him the best opportunity to succeed. The Brundidge, Ala., native is looking for a shot as a wide receiver, running back or kick returner. You name the position, and he’ll play it if it provides him an opportunity.
“I’m whatever they need,” Nickson said just moments after finishing his pro day activities. “I’m just an athlete trying to go in and do what I can and just help a team be successful.”
There have been many cases where college quarterbacks, who are more known for their running skills than their passing skills, have refused to try anything, but quarterback at the next level, and in almost each case, the player has failed. Nickson understands this, which is why he branching out.
“I’m not necessarily pursing it,” Nickson said of the quarterback position. “They’ve got plenty of film all the way back to 2006 if they want to see me throw. I wanted to give them something else to look at so they could see that I’m more than just a quarterback — I’m a pretty decent athlete.”
Although switching positions is a challenge for any player, Nickson believes his experience as a quarterback has made the transition easier.
“As a quarterback, it is a little bit easier than you would think (to switch to wide receiver), especially when you are an athletic quarterback with a scrambling style,” Nickson said. “You know the routes your wide receivers are running, so it is about you going out and doing it yourself.”
While there have been many obstacles Nickson has had to overcome while working at a new position, one thing that has come naturally to him is his catching ability. Despite never playing wide receiver a down in his life, Nickson believes his hands are a strength and it showed on Friday when he caught all but one of the passes thrown his way at pro day.
“I think the biggest transition is the little things like dropping your hips and not necessarily catching the ball because I’ve always had decent hands,” Nickson said. “I think I did pretty decent out there. I think I only had one drop and I should have caught that one. It was a fun experience.”
D.J. Moore and other former Commodores will get most of the attention heading into April’s NFL Draft, but Nickson hopes his performance on Friday proves he should not be forgotten.
“I hoped to come out and open up some eyes,” Nickson said. “I think the spotlight was on Reshard Langford and D.J. Moore and I just wanted to come out and open up some eyes and have people say, ‘who is this guy?’ That is what I wanted to do and I don’t know if I did that today, but that was my goal and I did my best and I can live with that.”