MANTECA, Calif. (BVM) – Next year, four-star Manteca High School football standout Blake Nichelson will be taking the field at Florida State as a linebacker. While he has starred on Manteca’s defense as well the last few years, the versatile Nichelson has also been a force on offense, special teams, or wherever the Buffaloes have needed him.
“I feel like it’s just important to be able to play multiple positions, especially at the high school level,” Nichelson said. “With me, it’s easy to learn new positions and get used to them and know how to play them. It’s just something that comes natural to me … I just play my own game and do my best at every position.”
In his past two seasons, some of Nichelson’s best performances have come as a tailback, and that has certainly been on display in 2022. During a late-October game earlier this season, Nichelson carried the ball 24 times, amassing 400 yards and seven touchdowns. The yards were a program record, while the seven scores tied a program-best mark set in 2019.
In the same game, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior also added another 19 yards receiving, and racked up five tackles on defense. Ironically, the contest was against Nichelson’s former high school, Central Catholic, and was also the Buffaloes’ only loss thus far of the 2022 season. While he wishes it would have come in a win, the loss didn’t diminish the greatness of Nichelson’s performance.
Blake is HIM 😈
— All-American Bowl (@AABonNBC) October 24, 2022
— Blake Nichelson 4⭐️LB (@NichelsonBlake) October 23, 2022
“I kind of didn’t notice all the yards and touchdowns I had until after that game,” Nichelson said. “That was definitely one of my best games that I’ve ever played. It just sucks that we ended up losing that game still, but I feel like I had a great game.
“I was really proud of myself, to be honest, just being able to accomplish a goal like that. And also for my team. My linemen really showed up for that game, along with my fullback that was blocking for me a lot. They gave me good holes to run through and it kind of just worked out.”
The incredible performance added to some impressive season-long numbers for Nichelson. Through 10 games, the do-it-all player has run for over 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns, also adding over 500 yards receiving and another 12 scores. On defense, Nichelson has racked up close to 50 tackles, also making 4.5 sacks.
His senior season may be his best yet, but it is part of a long duration of tremendous years on the gridiron for Nichelson. After his parents signed him up for football in second grade, the running back and linebacker committed to football over basketball and baseball. He flashed immediate talent during his youth, displaying speed, the ability to play sideline to sideline, and a knack for making impact plays. By eighth grade, Nichelson recognized he may have a chance to play beyond just high school someday.
However, his career has not gone on without some adversity mixed in. As a freshman playing at Central Catholic, Nichelson suffered an early-season ACL sprain, limiting him to action in just a couple of games at the end of the season.
“That year, I didn’t really get 100% of my speed back,” Nichelson said. “I had to do a lot of training in the offseason.”
Nichelson did just that, also transferring to Manteca during the same offseason. As a sophomore, he became a varsity starter for the Buffaloes, primarily playing wide receiver on offense, and outside linebacker on defense.
The solid first season at Manteca was a catalyst for what Nichelson considers perhaps his best season of football in 2021. Being featured more at running back, he ran for an incredible 2,231 yards and 36 touchdowns, compiling 2,612 total yards on offense as he added an additional seven scores receiving.
Meanwhile, his defensive numbers were also strong, totaling nearly 50 tackles and seven sacks. The performance helped Manteca to what was a solid 10-4 campaign.
Defensive/Offensive Highlights 2021 Junior Season
2,231 Rushing Yds/2,670 All Purpose Yds
44 TDs/288 Points
— Blake Nichelson 4⭐️LB (@NichelsonBlake) May 12, 2022
“That season was one of my best seasons that I’ve had,” Nichelson said. “I was pretty confident in my game, finally being a junior and being more developed … It was just a great season for me overall and the rest of my team.”
Coming off the terrific year, Nichelson and his team were looking to carry over the momentum to this fall. They have done just that, going 9-1 thus far on the year while now looking to make a run in the postseason.
Although Nichelson isn’t one to set a long list of specific goals for himself, he came into the year hoping to better his junior campaign, and has continued to star for Manteca in whatever role they have needed him in.
“I didn’t really put that many goals up,” Nichelson said. “What my main goal was, was basically to top my junior season, put better numbers up. That’s pretty much what I was focused on, total improvement from that season.”
Nichelson will soon conclude his high school career as one of the best Manteca has had come through its program. After that, the four-star recruit who is ranked No. 114 in the nation by 247Sports will have an opportunity not many get as he will play in the All-American Bowl in January.
“It’s something that I’ve worked hard for,” Nichelson said. “It’s a really hard game to get into. I feel like it will be a lifetime experience. It’ll be great to set off on that before I go to college.”
Nichelson’s college career will take place in Tallahassee at Florida State, and is poised to be a special one. The Manteca senior’s recruiting began picking up by the end of his sophomore year, receiving his first offer from Fresno State. Before long, he had amassed around 20 Division I offers.
“That’s kind of when it all started taking off,” Nichelson said. “After that first offer, all of the other ones started to come in as well. I really enjoyed getting offers from all these schools, getting to travel to different places and see college campuses. Just narrowing it down, it was kind of hard.”
Eventually, Nichelson did narrow it down to three: Florida State, Oregon and UCLA. While playing for the Bruins would keep him in his home state and competing for the Ducks had long been a dream, there was just something about the Seminoles that Nichelson could not pass up.
— Blake Nichelson 4⭐️LB (@NichelsonBlake) September 21, 2022
“When I got there for the first time, right away I felt like it was home,” Nichelson said. “Getting to see the campus, getting to meet some of the players, the coaching staff, all of that. It was kind of just all what I wanted in a program and that’s ultimately what I feel like was the best choice for me.”
Nichelson officially made his announcement in front of friends and family at Manteca back in September. Although he is not one to seek out the spotlight, being able to share that moment with so many close to him was special, and he looks forward to officially signing to become a Seminole come December.
“It was great being able to celebrate with my friends and family,” Nichelson said. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of, going to college, so it’s a blessing. Going to Florida State and being able to finally sign, that’s going to make it 100% official, so that’ll be great.”
Recently, Nichelson has been able to form a relationship with Coach Mike Norvell and the rest of the FSU staff, while also getting to experience what the gameday atmosphere will be like once he is in Tallahassee. Both things have made him all the more eager to suit up for the Seminoles.
“I’m definitely excited to play for them,” Nichelson said. “I got to see the college environment there when I went to their Clemson game. It’s crazy out there, all the fans, being able to see the war chant, all of that. The relationship I’ve built with them over time, in my recruiting process, it took a lot of time to evaluate me and get to know me before they offered me. I like the fact that they get to know their players that they want to offer. I felt like I was in good hands with them.”
Once at Florida State, Nichelson – FSU’s highest-rated linebacker recruit since the 2016 class – will look to get time on the field right away, ultimately hoping to make an early impact for the program.
“One thing I would like to accomplish is being able to start right away or get on the field as soon as possible,” Nichelson said. “That’s something I’ve always wanted to accomplish there. And then just being the best player I can be is what I want to do. Just go out there and make an impact for the team.”
While his time in college comes first, Florida State will ultimately be another stepping stone into what has been Nichelson’s dream since he was a little kid: making it to the NFL. It won’t be easy, but if the last few years have been any indication, Nichelson might just have the unique talent to achieve his lifelong dream.
“That’s just something I’ve always dreamed of as a kid, is making it to the league,” Nichelson said. “That’s ultimately my dream job. Getting there, I feel like that is going to be the hardest part. Putting in extra hours after practice, and overall grinding to get there. That’s the biggest thing I want to accomplish in my life, is being able to make it to the league.”