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Golden Graham Nicholson: Miami football’s ironleg is nailing it this season

<p>Graham Nicholson is one of three qualified FBS kickers who hasn&#x27;t missed a field goal this season. He has made 17 field goals, the other two have made 11 and nine respectively.</p>

Graham Nicholson is one of three qualified FBS kickers who hasn't missed a field goal this season. He has made 17 field goals, the other two have made 11 and nine respectively.

When junior kicker Graham Nicholson nailed a 32-yard field goal on Oct. 30 against Ohio University, fans were excited that he increased the RedHawks’ lead to 16-9. 

What many didn’t realize was that he had just made his 50th career field goal, making him the second most prolific field goal kicker in Miami University history behind only Gary Gussman, who nailed 68 field goals between 1984 and 1987. With a season record of 17/17 field goals and 28/28 Point-After-Touchdown (PAT) tries, Nicholson has made more kicks without a miss than anyone in Division I college football this year.

The Summit Country Day school graduate from Cincinnati didn’t start playing football until high school. He played basketball and soccer through middle school until his basketball coach, who was also the football coach, invited him to try out. 

“He was like, ‘Come out and give it a shot,’” Nicholson said. “I gave it a shot, and I was pretty good. If you’re good at something, it’s easy to like it. I really love it.”

Nicholson played football and soccer simultaneously for all four years at Summit Country Day. He was one of the best kickers in his division from 2018 until his graduation in 2021 and made the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Southwest Ohio All-Decade team from 2010-2019. 

Nicholson’s recruiting process took place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, he had only been able to visit a handful of schools, including Miami. His inability to visit other schools was a main reason for his decision to come to Miami.

“At Miami, I had the chance to see what it was like before COVID,” Nicholson said. “It was one of the only schools that I really got recruited by before COVID. I kind of just wanted to go back to what I had. It was all that I’d really seen.”

Nicholson arrived at Miami in 2021 and became a starter from the beginning. Throughout the 2021 season, he made 15/20 field goals and 37/41 PATs, giving him accuracy percentages of 75% and 90% respectively. His first-year performance earned him respect that many new players don’t expect.

“I think that my situation was unique,” Nicholson said, “Because a lot of the time, guys come into the team and they have to earn their place and earn their respect. I got that respect without going through a year of earning it. I really felt like everybody just embraced me as a player immediately, and it felt awesome to be here.”

In the following 2022 season, Nicholson made 18/23 field goals and 27/28 PATs, earning him an increase in field goal accuracy percentage to 78% and an increase in PAT accuracy percentage to 96%. Nicholson attributes his success to his mentality and his “take things one at a time” mindset.

“When you look at the season as a whole, it seems really hard to go out and make 25 kicks in a row,” Nicholson said. “It sounds almost impossible. But I think it’s very easy to run out on the field and make one. If I can do that every time, I can easily stack the whole season in.”

Despite his success, Nicholson is always looking for ways to improve. Rather than focusing on the 18 kicks he made in 2022, he focused on the five he missed. He realized that he had kicked those misses with bad form, resulting in low balls that could get blocked easily. 

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His development with these issues is helped by special teams coordinator Jackson Bronowski, who arrived at Miami in January. In his limited time here, Bronowski said Nicholson is completely devoted to the team’s goal.

“He holds himself to an extremely high standard, and his actions reflect that,” Bronowski said. “A lot of people talk about holding themselves to the highest standard, but Graham’s work ethic matches the standard that he wants. We knew from day one what Graham was, and he’s living up to that every single day.”

Bronowski assisted Nicholson in his off-season development, and the duo was ready to show everyone what Nicholson was capable of in his third year for the Redhawks. So far in the 2023 season, Nicholson has recorded 100% accuracy in both field goals (17-17) and extra points (28-28). He has also made his career-longest field goal, a 52-yarder against Bowling Green

This career-high season for Nicholson earned him the number four ranking in the nation for NCAA kickers, behind Jose Pizano (19-20, 30-30), Alex Hale (18-24, 27-27) and Randy Bond (18-25, 27-27). Nicholson remains one of only two kickers in the top 25 with 100% field goal accuracy. 

As the fourth highest ranked NCAA kicker, and the most accurate kicker Miami has had since 2000, Nicholson faces a lot of pressure to continue his success streak. Though the season is just over halfway through, he feels that a 100% season accuracy is attainable.

“There is no reason why I shouldn’t do it,” Nicholson said. “That’s what I set out to do every year. I’m still on track, so things are going according to plan.”

Bronowski tries not to place expectations on Nicholson: Expectations put more pressure on the player and can disrupt his performance. Instead, he tells Nicholson to take things day-by-day.

“My desire for Graham is that he comes out and attacks every day and gets better,” Bronowski said. “I know that that’s coach talk, but that’s what we have to do. We always say that you can never let your past moments impact your future moments. Be focused on your craft today, and the byproduct will take care of itself.”

Nicholson will try to continue his streak on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at home against Akron University.