Football, former quarterback move on

By Eric Townsend
Photo by James Kelley

As an elite local quarterback who played for his future college coach, Dan Nicholas was anointed by many as Pima Community College football team’s savior.

It initially came as a shock when Nicholas unexpectedly decided to leave the team in August.

“I just lost confidence,” Nicholas said. “I had a couple of injuries, and I lost confidence in my offensive line. I also lost confidence in myself and my game.”

Nicholas’ decision to quit the team was difficult.

“It was really tough,” he said. “I went back and forth many times before I decided I didn’t want to play anymore.”

When Pat Nugent left Canyon del Oro High School in January 2009 to take the full-time head coaching job at Pima, he quickly recruited Nicholas as his starting quarterback.

Nicholas was the 2007 Tucson Citizen Player of the Year and a two-year starter at quarterback for Nugent at CDO.

Nugent and Nicholas led the Dorados to their first state championship game in 30 years a 12-2 record in 2007.

Pima fans hoped Nicholas’ high school success would translate well to the junior college level, but 2009 proved rough. The Aztecs went 0-10, and a foot injury kept Nicholas out of action for the final two games of the season.

Pat Nugent, left, Daniel Nicholas, right

Even with the injury, Nicholas ranked sixth in passing last year in the Western States Football League, throwing for 924 yards, 92 for 144, with three touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games.

For 2010, fans pinned their hopes on a talented freshman lineup and sophomores with a year of experience under their belt.

They counted on Nicholas to lead the way, but things didn’t go quite as Nugent and the Aztecs had planned.

A shoulder injury in spring ball led to Nicholas’ unforeseen and abrupt departure from the team just before fall camp started.

“My first reaction was like, wow!” sophomore linebacker Brent Lush said. “I didn’t think he would quit like that, especially after going through the workouts and summer camp.”

Nugent was also surprised when his starting quarterback called it quits.

“When fall camp came around, we were anticipating he would be there. He texted me the first day of fall camp and basically said he’s not going to play,” Nugent said.
“When he told us he was leaving, we were kind of in shock,” Nugent added. “We didn’t try to fight it, and overall the team has handled it very well.”

In a sophomore-dominated league, Pima has coped with Nicholas’ absence by using capable freshmen quarterbacks Zach Schira and Zander McKean.

Recent events, such as the team’s first win against a conference opponent in 50 games, indicate the team is improving.

“They have done a good job,” Lush said of the new quarterbacks. “But they’re still learning. They’re just freshmen.”

Nicholas originally signed with football powerhouse Glendale Community College, but did not enroll and took the 2008 season off. He then turned down a scholarship to Adams State College, a four-year school in Colorado, to attend Pima.

He said he has now started a new chapter in his life, which brings lots of uncertainty.

“I might be looking to go out of state for school,” he said. “I still don’t know what I want to do academically.”

Nicholas is not sure whether he will play football again, but seemed open to the idea.

“I feel I could still play wherever I go,” he said.

He does not regret leaving the Pima team. “I feel I made the right decision.”

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