MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Offensive lineman Nick Malone grew up playing football in the city of Morgantown.
An all-state second team selection as a senior at Morgantown High School, he originally committed to Pittsburgh in 2018. However, he de-committed from the Panthers shortly after the hiring of Neal Brown, as interest from his hometown college program increased.
The Morgantown native then walked on to the Mountaineers squad that summer.
Three years of hard work and body transformation later, Malone was honored with the Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award, which is handed out annually to a WVU football walk-on who has displayed a great attitude and work ethic.
“It’s very nice. Most linemen, we don’t get as much recognition, we get a lot of the blame,” Malone said. “Being a walk-on as well, it was a very good feeling, that’s for sure.”
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Brown was the one to hand Malone his award during the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday. He said afterward that the lineman didn’t just earn the award for what he’s done throughout this spring.
“What he’s done is, he’s really worked on his body over the last three years to put himself in position, where right now we feel like he can be a quality backup,” said Brown. “He’s done extremely well in the classroom. He’s worked. He’s been absolutely no issue, and he’s grown into a player. So, that was an award that over the course of the last three years that he’s really earned.”
For Malone, the motivation to continue to get better comes from a desire to get on the field. He’s done so at his natural position on the offensive line, as well as a few times as a tight end.
“From when I first got here, my goal was to play. I want to play. I want to play,” said Malone, who did appear in all 13 games for the Mountaineers last season.
Another goal of his was to improve his physical stature. He’s done so, saying he has put on nearly 40 pounds since he first stepped on campus.
When halftime arrived, and the Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award and Iron Mountaineer Awards were ready to be handed out, Malone had a feeling he could hear his name called.
“We didn’t talk about it too much, but I got the inkling that, as soon as they said Morgantown, it was between me and Preston Fox,” said Malone. “I kind of initially put my helmet down to be like, ‘Oh, OK.’ And then I just ran out there right on the go, and didn’t expect it, but was blessed to be it.”
Malone wasn’t the only Morgantown-native walk-on who was rewarded for his hard work on Saturday. 2020 walk-on Preston Fox learned he was put on scholarship following an impressive performance in the spring game.
“I was very happy for him,” said Malone. “Being Morgantown guys and walking on, it’s kind of a privilege and all that, and I was very happy for him, that’s for sure.”
Both Fox and Malone hope to see their workload increase going into the 2022 season, which gets underway on September 1 against the team that Malone originally committed to play for.