Verbum Dei Alum is successful realtor in North Carolina
Former Verbum Dei Eagles football star went from a soaring eagle to a grounded Bear at Cal before embarking on a successful 16 year career in the National Football League which began as a 5th round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nickerson, who was born in Compton, played the high profile of line backer for the Steelers but never made it to the Super Bowl where this week the Steelers will be meeting the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, FL.
He made the team after a three-year collegiate career at California, Berkley where he was All Pac 10 as a junior and second team All Pac 10 as a senior.
Nickerson never had the opportunity to play in a bowl game with the Golden Bears after a stellar prep career with Verbum Dei high school in Watts.
Under the tutelage of legendary Verbum De coach Lalo Mendoza, Nickerson flourished during his three years as a varsity starter for the Eagles and was instrumental in leading his alma mater to back-to-back CIF Southern section titles in 1981-'82.
"Coach Mendoza is my mentor and responsible for much of the success that I had in life. I can't thank him enough for what he's done and I speak to him regularly now," Nickerson told the Sentinel recently.
Although he never played in a Super Bowl for the Steelers, he did enjoy individual success. After playing on special teams as a rookie, he won the left linebacker position the following year in 1988 and was second on the team in tackles with 99 and sacks with 3.5.
He was leading the team in tackles in 1989 before he broke an ankle and most of his Steelers career was spent under Hall of fame coach Chuck Knoll and one season under former coach Bill Cowher.
Nickerson Steelers career came to a conclusion when the team refused to adequately compensate him and he was a cornerstone in the landmark class action lawsuit that led to free agency in the NFL.
During his final year with the Steelers he was the lowest paid linebacker in the NFL with a paltry salary of $200,000, but in 1993 as the primary plaintiff in the case against the NFL he was freed and signed a lucrative free agent contract with Tampa bay for $5.2 million.
"I was determined to help turn the [Tampa Bay] franchise around," Nickerson stated.
Pro Bowl players such as John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Derek Brooks were all mentored and guiding during their infant NFL careers by Nickerson.
Nickerson had to opportunity to play for the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl Tony Dungy while he was the Bucs head coach, although Dungy achieved his historical feat as coach of the Indianapolis Colts.
His 16 year playing career concluded with stops in Jacksonville and Green Bay, and after he played in five Pro Bowls and was a three time All pro and National Football League Players Association Linebacker of the Year in 1993.
In 2007 he was named linebackers coach of the Chicago Bears by his former Tampa Bay position coach Lovie Smith, but had to resign from the position because of family reasons.
Nickerson is still connected to the NFL in a major way as owner of his own realtor company based in North Carolina.
Players in the NFL who are required to relocate to different teams rely upon Nickerson heavily.
Further proof that Hardy Nickerson has transcended his hark working skills from the football field onto the field of life.