4 Generations of Gridiron Excellence: The Monnett-Nicholls Legacy (Part 2: The Nicholls)
By MERL KLEINKNECHT
The gridiron legacy begun by Robert C. Monnett in the opening installment of this series now covers the sons and grandsons of his daughter Mary Monnett Nicholls and former Galion High quarterback Gerald “Jerry” Nicholls.
Arthur Michael Nicholls, their oldest son, was a talented three– sports star for the GHS Tigers. He claimed three varsity letters each in football, basketball and baseball.
His sophomore year, Mike was among the leading pass receivers in the 1974 NOL (Northern Ohio League) football season. As a senior, the 5’9”, 144-pound split end was the league’s leading receiver in all departments with 32 catches for 605 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was also a Tiger co-captain and earned the team’s Outstanding Offensive Back Award. Other honors included 1st Team All-League and honorable mention All-Ohio.
Wearing number 22, Mike graduated as the school’s single-season and career (40 catches for 747 yards) pass receiving leader. In 1995 he was named wide receiver on the 100th Anniversary All-Time GHS Football Team selected by Galion Inquirer sports editor Jon Weithman.
Also as a sophomore, Mike was the starting point guard for the winningest Tiger basketball squad to ever take the court. Coach Jim Kirk’s 1974–75 GHS (18–4) roundballers claimed the NOL Championship and advanced to the district finals with young Nicholls directing the attack.
As a junior he led the circuit in assists. His senior year Galion (12–6) finished as NOL runners-up. Mike threw 381 points through the hoop for 21.2 per game. As a three-year starter he tallied 704 career markers.
Mike was named the 1977 District 6 Co-Player of the Year. He was also first team All-NOL and All-Northwest District and named honorable mention All-Ohio.
Interestingly enough, his grandfather — Robert Monnett I — had helped lead the 1929 Bucyrus Redmen (4–1) to the North Central Ohio League (NCOL) crown as the team’s and league’s second leading scorer. No All-NCOL team was selected that year or he surely would have been on the first unit.
Mike Nicholls closed out his high school hoops career by becoming the first Galion Tiger to play in the Ohio High School North-South All-Star Basketball Game. He was the victorious North’s leading scorer (along with two other teammates) hitting 6-of-10 shots. He also had 4 assists and 2 steals.
In 2000, he was one of five GHS basketball players on the Mansfield News Jouurnal’s ballot to select an All-Area Team. The other four Tigers listed were Ray Seif, Tom Quay, Jerry Tischer and Nate Reinking. A total of 37 high schools were represented on this ballot.
Mike was also a three-year starter in baseball and twice named All-NOL. He was an excellent defensive shortstop and base runner. He led the team in runs scored all three seasons and crossed the plate 74 times in his varsity career in just 71 games. He could also swing the bat, hitting .422 as a junior and .323 along with five homeruns overall.
His senior year, coach Dave Spraw’s Tigers (16–6) claimed the 1977 NOL diamond crown. Mike went on to earn two varsity basketball letters at Ashland University.
Robert Christopher Nicholls, Mike’s brother, was also a three– sports star. He excelled as a wide receiver, defensive back and place kicker for coach Harry Beers’ 1980 and ‘81 Galion High gridders.
Reaching 5’10” and 150 pounds, he nabbed 30 passes for 580 career yards and 3 scores.
On defense he was a first team All-NOL cornerback intercepting 5 passes, recovering a fumble and registering 28 solo tackles in 1981. That effort also earned Chris the Tigers’ Top Defensive Back award.
As a place kicker, Chris set school records with three field goals in 1981, 5 career 3-pointers, and a 41– yard scoring boot at Shelby on September 25, 1981. He scored 57 career points — 39 kicking — while wearing number 11.
In basketball, Chris topped the 1982 NOL in assists and was second team All-League. He earned three roundball “Gs” and scored 464 career points.
Chris was an outstanding shortstop while leading Galion High batters with a .352 average as a junior. He was presented with the Tigers’ Top Hitter Award and named honorable mention All-NOL. He earned two varsity diamond monograms.
Robert Charles Nicholls, son of Chris and the former Cindy Ketterman, was a three-year football starter in his father’s number 11. A 6’2” and 160-pound split end, he was the Tigers’ leading pass receiver his last two years and a standout defensive back. Always a deep threat, his career totals show 31 pass receptions for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensively, he recorded 69 tackles and 3 pass interceptions. His senior year, Bobby had 19 points including 5 extra point conversions. However, he had the misfortune to play from 2002 through 2004, the worst three-year stretch in GHS pigskin history. During this period Galion won just once while running up a 28-game losing streak.
Bobby also claimed varsity letters in basketball and baseball. His senior hoops season resulted in 118 points and an outstanding 88.2% success rate from the free throw line.
Bobby did get the opportunity to play for two outstanding Tiger baseball teams. He was with coach Dan Gorbett’s 2004 NOL and sectional champions (19–5) and posted a (6–1) record as a left-handed pitcher for the 2005 Galion (21–5) league runners-up. This included 2 shutouts and a third complete game where he yielded a single run.
For the season, he struck out 29 batters in 36 innings. Both of those clubs featured J.B. Shuck who has since become Galion’s first and only Major League Baseball player.
Bobby’s mound accomplishments resulted in a team’s Most Improved Player award, 2nd Team All-District and honorable mention All-NOL and All North Central Ohio (NCO) his senior year. The All-NCO team is selected for the Mansfield News Journal (MNJ).
Alex Michael Nicholls, son of Mike Nicholls and the former Melinda Jones, was the starting quarterback for the 2006 through 2008 Tigers. He completed 194-of-337 career passes for 2,558 yards — fourth best in GHS history — and 9 touchdowns. Among his targets were wide receivers Jack, his brother; and cousin Andrew. In his final varsity football game, Alex engineered a stunning 24–20 upset of Shelby. That began a run that has seen Galion win 33 of 43 games while claiming NOL and North Central Conference (NCC) championships under coach Chris Hawkins.
Alex, a talented defensive back, had 97 career tackles and 6 interceptions as a Tiger cornerback and free safety. That earned 1st Team All-NOL and All-NCO Football Coaches Association (FCA) and 2nd Team All-Northwest District defensive back honors his senior year. He also claimed the GHS 2008 Mr. Football Award, Offensive Player of the Year and Zachary Predmore trophies. The latter is given annually in memory of coach Richard Predmore’s late son. Alex was a Tiger co-captain reaching 6’2” and 190 pounds as a senior. He wore number 7 and scored 66 points, including 10 touchdowns, as a three-year starter.
Alex also garnered two varsity letters in basketball and was a starter for coach Tim Birie’s 2009 district champions. That was only Galion’s second district hoops title. The first came in 1931 under coach Fred McClintock. Brother Jack and cousin Andrew were also team members. Alex scored 254 career points and was a tenacious defender exhibiting skill as a shot blocker, rebounder and ball thief.
Alex added two more varsity “Gs” in baseball as a middle infielder. He was the GHS shortstop as a senior, batting .337 after posting a .316 mark as a junior. He was 2nd Team All-NOL and honorable mention All– District and All-NCO (MNJ) in 2009.
John Arthur Nicholls — better known as Jack — inherited the Tiger quarterback post from brother Alex in 2009 and propelled coach Hawkins’ resurgent GHS football program to a perfect (10–0) regular season. That included the NOL championship and a playoff berth. A team co-captain and a three-year letterman, he earned the Tiger Coaches Award, 2nd Team All-NOL and honorable mention All-Northwest Dis-trict recognition as a senior.
Jack was honorable mention All –NCO(FCA) his junior year. He was a three-year regular in Galion’s defensive backfield and had 4 career pass interceptions. His junior season he started at wide receiver and caught 13 throws for 144 yards. He was also back-up quarterback his first two seasons. Jack threw for 1,094 career yards and 10 touchdowns. Jack scored 4 TDs and had 30 career points. He stood 5’10” and played at 165 pounds his final two seasons. He wore number 2.
Jack played in every varsity basketball game as a junior and senior. That included Birie’s 2009 district champions.
In 2010 he was third in the NOL with 78 assists and second with 41 steals. He scored 212 career tallies.
Andrew Curtis Nicholls, Bobby’s brother, joined cousins Alex and Jack on the Tigers’ 2009 District basketball winners. He earned three varisty monograms, was the GHS scoring leader his last two seasons and pumped in 564 career points. Andrew was the Tigers’ Most Valuable Player as a senior.
In football, Andrew accomplished the rare feat of earning four-varsity letters. That led to 59 career pass receptions as a wide receiver for 888 yards — fourth best all-time for GHS — and 7 touchdowns. He added 38 extra point boots for 80 career markers. Andrew was also a highly effective punter averaging over 36 yards a kick with excellent hang time and directional kicking. As a senior he returned 16 of the oppositions punts at a stellar clip of 20.3 yards per attempt.
Andrew also played in the defensive secondary and topped NOL defensive backs with 88 tackles as a free safety his senior year.
Andrew was a 2nd Team All-NOL wide receiver for the 2009 NOL champions.
In 2010 he was a co-captain, GHS Special Teams Player of the Year, 1st Team All-NOL and All NCO (FCA) punter and honorable mention All-Northwest District. He stood 6’3” and played at 170 pounds his final season. Like his father Chris and brother Bobby before him, he wore jersey number 11.
Alex, Jack and Andrew Nicholls are all currently attending college. Alex and Jack both played football for coach Larry Kehres’ 2012 NCAA Division III National Champion Mount Union Purple Raiders.
Alex, a senior, started in the Raiders defensive backfield the past two seasons. This year he was All-Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) 1st Team as a free safety. He has picked up 3 varsity letters as Mount Union (43–2) has claimed 3 OAC crowns and been in the National Finals all three years.
Jack, a junior, played wide receiver for the champion Purple Raiders caught 23 passes for 313 yards and 3 scores. With another year to play for Mount Union, he has a good chance to add another national title to the family legacy as Kehres has won 11 NCAA crowns as the school’s coach. The Purple Raiders have also taken 18 consecutive OAC championships.
Andrew is a sophomore at Ashland University and was a wide receiver for last year’s Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Eagles (11–1). AU, coached by Lee Owens of Galion’s 1985 Division II State High School Champions, also qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs. With two years of eligibility remaining more real championship possibilities exist for Andrew as well.
And there is more…
Robert Arthur McDavid, son of Julie Nicholls McDavid and Galion Tiger basketball great Scott McDavid, was a defensive back for Kehres’ 2001, 2002 and 2005 NCAA Division III national champion Mount Union gridders.
He played his high school football in Pickerington, Ohio. Robert is the grandson of Mary Monnett and Jerry Nicholls. This, of course, makes him a great grandson of Robert C. Monnett I.
NOTE: In Wednesday’s first-part edition of this series, it was inadvertently omitted that in 1985 Rob Monnett was a captain of the football team, was 1st Team All-North Central Ohio (MNJ) and the North Central Ohio Offensive Back of the Year.