MORGANTOWN — It was a big day for Morgantown High alums during Saturday’s WVU Gold-Blue spring game.
Offensive lineman Nick Malone, who graduated from MHS in 2019, was the winner of the Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award, given to the walk-on team member “who distinguished himself through his attitude and work ethic.” The award is presented in memory of Tommy Nickolich, a former WVU player (1979-82) who died of cancer in 1983.
Preston Fox, who also graduated from MHS a year after Malone in 2020, caught seven passes for 117 yards, including several circus grabs, in Saturday’s game.
However, after the game, Fox, a former walk-on, was presented with a scholarship.
Linebacker Caden Biser, son of MHS head coach Sean Biser, also made a tackle toward the end of the game.
For Malone, the Nickolich Award was a product of not just his work this spring, but his overall career over the last three years. He came in at 260 pounds but recently met his goal of reaching 300 pounds, a body fit to block Power Five defensive lineman.
“Nick was an athletic guy, but he was thin when he first got here,” head coach Neal Brown said. “He’s worked really hard over the last three years and put himself into position where we believe he can be a quality backup.”
Malone has bounced all across the offensive line, but he mainly played left and right tackle during the spring game. Offensive line coach Matt Moore said Malone can also play both guard positions if called on.
Last season, Malone played tight end on jumbo sets offensively and also on field goal protection.
“I did catch a few balls in high school,” Malone said with a laugh.
Malone said he does hope to follow a similar path to another Morgantown native, though he played for rival University High.
Rich Braham was a walk-on for the Mountaineers in the early 1990s but ended up being an All-American before having a stellar NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Braham spoke to the team earlier this spring, and Malone recalls what that meant to the offensive line.
“His story, growing up in Morgantown and how it all went, that’s the goal,” Malone said.
When Malone was presented the Nickolich Award, he heard “Morgantown” before his name was called, but even then, he wasn’t sure if it was going to him or Fox.
That’s because Fox turned heads time and time again all spring, making impressive catches and what wide receivers coach Tony Washington said, “He catches everything.”
In what Brown called the final presentation of the spring, Fox was awarded a scholarship by his parents, Tom and Tammy, in the locker room.
Although it took 15 spring practices for it to happen, even Fox’s teammates were beginning to wonder what was taking so long.
“We’ve all been waiting,” wide receiver Kaden Prather said. “We got to a point where we were like, ‘Coach Brown … what’s going on here? What are you waiting for?’ We’re all excited for him and if anyone deserves it, it’s Preston, for sure. I’m really proud of him.”