Keith Nichol's Long Road Home
With no time left on the clock, Michigan State’s quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary to the end zone that bounced off of B.J. Cunningham’s helmet into the hands of wide receiver Keith Nichol, who drives to the end zone to give Michigan State the win over previously undefeated Wisconsin. That play cemented Nichol’s place in Michigan State history and represented the culmination of an amazing journey.
BTN will profile Nichol and the unusual path that took him from his Michigan roots to the University of Oklahoma and eventually home to Michigan State. The feature will air at 10:30 AM ET on Saturday during the BTN’s Auto-Owners Insurance Pregame Show.
BTN feature producer Julian Darnell said that the piece is special because of both the incredible play and the compelling journey that brought Nichol back to his home state.
“The way that he’s adapted for the team at Michigan State and then he hooks up in this moment with Cousins, on a play in which they’re both going to be remembered forever, is extraordinary,” Darnell said.
Nichol was a three-time all-state Michigan high school football player as a quarterback at Lowell High School. One of the most highly recruited players out of the state of Michigan, he committed early to Michigan State but later reopened the recruiting process after a coaching change and made the deicision to go to Oklahoma playing behind Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford.
After one season with the Sooners, Nichol transferred to Michigan State. In East Lansing, he was competing for a starting quarterback spot against Kirk Cousins when he was moved to wide receiver.
Nichol said he made the move to wide receiver because that’s what the team needed.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a football player number one, then a quarterback and now obviously a wide receiver,” Nichol said. “If we needed a wide receiver I was going to fill that void and do the very best I could.”
Cousins also grew up in the western part of Michigan and remembers hearing about Nichol as a fellow standout in the state.
“The fact that our careers have gone down different paths and come back together makes it a very unique and a special story,” Cousins said.
Their paths crossed again in a very historical way on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Nichols recalls the moment after the ball bounces off the helmet of Cunningham.
“As soon as I see the ball coming my way, I instantly think, ‘I’m going to get this and were going to win the game,’” Nichol said.
Nichol said that this particular play represents how a career can come down to a single moment.
“Coach Dantonio would always tell us that ‘you never know when your number is going to be called,’” Nichol said. “Sometimes that play is going to come up, you have to be ready.”
— By Mallory Treleaven