Nickelberry hits high gear in ‘93


Huskie football fans may remember Gerald Nickelberry best in the Arkansas State game.

The 6 foot, 215 pound linebacker scooped up the loose football on the ten yard line and sprinted 90 yards for the score. In the endzone, he fell to the ground in exhaustion while his teammates jumped all over him and the crowd at Huskie Stadium went into a frenzy.

Plays like that don’t happen too often for a defensive player. Everyone knows who LeShon Johnson is. But for a linebacker, few people speak of an individual player, it’s just “the defense” played great.

Nickelberry is a big part of “the defense,” but there is a lot more to his game than 90-yard touchdown runs.

Nickelberry started the season as an All-Big West Candidate and has lived up to his billing.

“I’ve really picked my game up this season,” he said.

That’s an understatement.

Aside from the 90-yard return the junior is second on the team in stops and has broken into the top twenty career tacklers, or the “Hit List,” in NIU history. He’s currently tied with Pat O’Shea at 14th with 289.

With the rest of this season yet to be played and another ahead of him next year, #43 is on a pace to finish somewhere in the top five.

He was listed as No. 1 inside left linebacker prior to August drills. Since the season began, he’s recovered one fumble, and is third in tackles for a loss of yards with five, including one QB sack.

With three games left this season, Nickelberry already has 99 tackles and is only two stops shy of breaking his personal season record of 101. He’s also only three tackles off the current team lead, held by fellow linebacker Steve Wild with 102.

After last week’s loss to Southwestern Louisiana and the team probably missing a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl this season, Nickelberry says it won’t stop them from playing with the same intensity they’ve shown all season.

Highlights of Nickelberry’s career include a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown last season. Ironically, the pick came against Arkansas State almost a year to the day before his 90-yard score this season.

His career high in tackles is 19 vs. Illinois State on Nov. 16, 1991.

He became the school’s first freshman (Football News Second-Team) All-America since 1987 and had the most first-year tackles (89) since 1976.