A helping hand

During his career at USF, Stephen Nicholas gave everything he could on the field. Because of his effort, Nicholas earned All-Big East honors, became the Bulls’ career leader in tackles for loss and was selected by the Atlanta Falcons this past April in the NFL draft. Now, as his career in Atlanta is beginning, Nicholas is doing charity work to help give what he can off the field.

On Saturday, Nicholas met fans at Bucs and Bulls Heaven, where he signed autographs and took photos in order to raise money for a charity that is very dear to him.

Former USF linebacker Stephen Nicholas signs autographs to raise money for charity. ORACLE PHOTO/JOSE LOPEZ JR.

“I’m trying to raise money for Victory Tabernacle Church,” Nicholas said. “It’s up in Jacksonville, and I really love this church.”

The church, which is a large part of the Jacksonville community, does more than hold service on Sundays.

“The church does a lot for the community,” Nicholas said. “They have youth camps during the summer to keep kids off the streets and they do these huge fish fries where everyone can come out and eat for free, basically.”

In addition to summer camps and fish fries, Victory Tabernacle also hosts its own community outreach initiatives.

“The fellowship also collects and gives clothes to those people who need them,” Nicholas said. “Just to be able to give back and help is what I’m trying to do.”

Nicholas, who is currently vying for a starting job with the Atlanta Falcons, has had his lifestyle change dramatically over the past few months.

“I would say life has been a tad bit different,” Nicholas said. “I’m enjoying married life – I got married on March 24. Then I was drafted in April, which was a blessing.”

Since being drafted, Nicholas has made his transition from a college player to professional under the tutelage of former Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino.

“That’s something interesting for me,” Nicholas said. “He was kind of our rival at USF, but he’s a great coach. We went at it a lot, Louisville vs. USF, so I know we are going to have a good coach.”

For Nicholas, the NFL has been a transition. Having anchored the USF defense for several seasons, Nicholas is now trying to win over new teammates and earn playing time. However, Nicholas’ confidence has never been higher.

“I think people should expect great things from me this season,” Nicholas said. “I’m going to work hard, represent where I’m from and hopefully end up in the starting lineup.”

If many players are known for what they do on the field, and character is defined by what they do off of it, then Nicholas is beginning his career on the right path, according to his good friend and marketing manager Pete Marks.

“Stephen is the definition of humility,” Marks said. “He has a great head on his shoulders.”

Nicholas, who raised nearly $500 for Victory Tabernacle Church on Saturday, will work to solidify a spot on the Falcons’ defense once training camp opens July 26.