Lee County's Nichols commits to play baseball at Georgia

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

LEESBURG -- Daniel Nichols' wardrobe just got a little bigger.

After verbally committing to play baseball at Georgia nearly two weeks ago, the Lee County rising senior quickly went out and bought a Georgia hat and a pair of UGA shirts.

After all, it has been his dream his whole life to suit up in the Bulldog red and black.

"I didn't know what to think," Nichols said of his initial reaction to a call from UGA coach David Perno, who invited him to play for the Bulldogs.

"I thought I was in a dream. I was trying to wake myself up. I was just relieved and thankful."

Nichols is the latest Lee County athlete to commit to Georgia. In the last year, Caleb Ebbets (track) and Sanford Seay (football) decided to take their athletic careers to Athens.

Nichols, who hit .404 with four home runs, 27 RBI and 26 runs in his junior year as a Trojan, won't be allowed to sign a letter of intent until Nov. 1.

"I have wanted to go to Georgia my entire life," Nichols told The Herald in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I like the way they play, and it will be a good experience to be a Bulldog."

And Lee County coach Rob Williams said Nichols, who will play first base for the Trojans next season, has what it takes to succeed in the SEC.

Williams sees Nichols' bright future daily on the practice field, where high school stars are polished and SEC recruits are born.

"During practice, he wants to have a lot of balls hit at him," Williams said. "He would take ground balls at third base, and then I would move on and work my way around the infield. Then I would look up, and he would be at shortstop or second base ready to take more ground balls."

After playing third base as a junior, Nichols will move back to first base for his senior season and plans to stay there while in college. He said the Georgia coaching staff has other plans for him, also.

"They are going to use me as an emergency catcher," he said.

That's Nichols -- a kid who just loves the game of baseball.

"He is just a great kid," Williams said. "He just wants to play and doesn't really care where it is. Just get him in the lineup somewhere, and he will do a great, solid job."

Nichols is the fifth Lee County baseball player in the last two decades and the first since 2001 to play for Georgia. He will follow former Trojans Kyle King, Brian Rainwater, Josh Dorminey and Brian Johnson to Athens.

However, he won't be following in his brother's footsteps. Thomas Nichols, who was the Herald's Ray Knight Player of the Year in 2007, played for Georgia Tech -- a program, along with Auburn and Mercer, that was also interested in Daniel.

But Daniel knew where is heart was, and Williams said that makes all the difference.

"I always tell them to find a school that they want," Williams said. "If you're not happy where you're playing, you aren't going to perform well. You need to go somewhere you feel comfortable."

Nichols said Williams, along with his travel ball coach and father, were instrumental in getting him to where he is now.

And for Nichols, that's a dream come true.