USC Football Head Coach Lincoln Riley Remembers the Life and Legacy of Dave Nichol
When he looks back at his career, Lincoln Riley sees Dave Nichol as the starting point.
"Honestly, there's a strong possibility I wouldn't be in college coaching without him," Riley said.
In a solemn and reflective manner, USC's head coach remembered the life and legacy of Dave Nichol, the Trojans' inside wide receivers coach, Saturday in his office. Riley's love and admiration for the coach was palpable while he spoke over Zoom with the team's beat reporters following the Trojans' third practice of spring camp.
"He was really the one that kind of gave me my first shot to walk-on at Texas Tech when he was an offensive assistant there," Riley explained. "And then when I got into the coaching side of it, he was really the one, when I was a student assistant and didn't know anything about anything, he was kind of the guy that guided me and led me. He taught me how to become a coach."
Nichol, who was hired by Riley in December, passed away Friday (March 25) in McKinney, Texas. He was 45.
"We were able to tell the team yesterday afternoon," Riley said. "And so, as you can imagine, a lot of emotion with the guys and then a lot of staff members. So many staff members that we have were very close to Dave … Just a difficult day. I mean, I don't know how else to describe it. Just a really, really difficult day. We will definitely miss him more than you can imagine."
Nichol came to USC after spending the previous two seasons at Mississippi State as the team's inside receivers coach. Prior to his stint with the Bulldogs, Nichol had stops at Washington State, East Carolina, Arizona and Texas Tech.
Riley highlighted Nichol's work ethic by detailing the grueling hours he put in as a student assistant early on in his career.
"I think he made like $10,000 a year. They painted the lines on the field," Riley explained. "They would paint the locker room. They did repairs. They did everything. They were the academic counselors. They did everything. That's a hard job."
When asked about the lessons he learned from Nichol, Riley noted how the Texas native's determination still guides him as a coach today.
"He knew what he wanted to do," Riley said. "He told me the other day, as we were talking, that if he had it all over, he would do it exactly the same way. So that was just [his] kind of perseverance and pushing through it, and will to do anything within your power to do what you want to do in this life."
Lincoln described Friday as an emotional day that left everyone in a "fog" and a "haze". The team found some solace Saturday, however, when they returned to the place that connects them all.
"It was good to get back on the field. I mean, that's where Dave loved to be," Riley said. "He loved the field as much as anybody. And so, probably for us…you take some piece of that, that you're out there doing what he loved to do."
Head coach Lincoln Riley's press conference: