Gray Nichols is headed to Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.
That is just one of the places Nichols and his teammates will visit during a week spent with the Team USA Under-14 National Development program from Saturday to Friday in Canton, Ohio.
Already a two-time Team Georgia selectee, the 12-year-old Lakeside Middle School student athlete impressed USA Football officials during a tryout in Marietta, Ga., in April and was chosen as one of just 100 seventh-grade football players from across the country.
Invitations to play in all-star games have been coming fast and furious for Nichols, who plays Columbia County recreation football in the fall and Columbia Area Youth Football Association football in the spring. He couldn’t attend the Future All-Americans Bowl in January and had to decline the opportunity to play in the National Prep Football Association’s Rising Freshmen All-American Game in Miami on July 6.
Nichols, a 5-foot-7, 208-pound lineman, played for Team Georgia’s 7th Grade Team in Jacksonville, Fla., on June 15, but the Canton event is on another level.
“It’s not just like Georgia, it’s the nation,” Nichols said. “It means that I made this team out of almost everybody in our nation.”
His mother, Jennifer, who will camp out in a hotel during the week while Nichols is housed at Walsh University, liked the reason her son was chosen.
“They didn’t just base it on what they saw; they’re basing it on your character and your personality and your teamwork and your sportsmanship out there,” she said.
During the week he’ll attend meetings, scrimmages and 7-on-7s. Other things, including a dinner at the Hall of Fame, have been scheduled, but Nichols is looking forward to the trip itself and the football aspects of it.
“I just like to learn new things and grow,” Nichols said. “Like at the camp we had they showed us how to tackle safer.”
At the end of the week, the group will play a game against itself. A select few will be chosen to play in an international game.
“If I make this other team we’re going up against Sweden and Canada,” Nichols said.
While a ways off, Nichols is hoping that the event will help when it’s time to start looking at colleges. For now, he is preparing for the day when he can play for Lakeside High School and continue a family tradition.
“My dad (Bert Nichols) played for Lakeside, and I always wanted to be like my dad,” Nichols said.
He did weight training with the high school Panthers this year and caught the eye of head coach Jarrett Troxler.
“He works hard,” said Troxler. “He did a good job for us and he’s got a bright future.”