Former Miami Hurricanes safety Joseph “JoJo” Nicolas passed away Wednesday afternoon in South Florida, one day after a horrific car accident in Miami Beach on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Nicolas spent the better part of Tuesday in critical condition. Late Tuesday night Nicolas’ brother Abner Davis posted picture on social media, hand in hand, stating that the fight was on.
Early Wednesday morning Nicolas was upgraded to stable condition. By nightfall, he was gone.
Seven years back Nicolas was a 3-Star prospect out of nearby Homestead High. The sought-after safety had offers from Arizona State, Auburn, Louisville, Central Florida and Wisconsin—as well as Rutgers, where he originally committed the previous December.
Two months later, after a change of heart, he chose his beloved hometown team.
Nicolas played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2007. His first career interception came early that season, against Marshall. Outside of that, it was mostly special teams duty.
As a sophomore, Nicolas went on to earn eight starts, netting 28 tackles—including a career-high seven against Georgia Tech. A year later, Nicolas was a 10-game starter with 26 tackles. His best performance was an eight-tackle performance against Virginia.
Nicolas’ final season proved to be his breakout year—his final season being his lone under first-year head coach Al Golden. The senior started 12 games, finished third on the team with 66 tackles, reeled in two interceptions and a pass break-up.
One pick occurred in a win over Georgia Tech. Nicolas also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Weeks later, a career-high 10-tackle performance in a win at North Carolina.
Three months prior, Nicolas faced something no parent ever should—the loss of a child. Even worse, the soon-to-be senior was 22 years old and his son—Joseph Nicolas Jr.—died one month after being born premature.
“It was really unexplainable how hard it was’ to deal with the loss,” said Nicolas told Susan Miller Degnan at The MiamI Herald in September 2011. “My family and teammates and coaches, they made it bearable for me to come back out here and dedicate this whole season to my son and this team.”
Nicolas spent every night in the hospital with his son, but returned to practice every morning—where he was seen sporting a coveted black jersey, which Golden and the coaching staff handed out to the hardest working players.
Nicolas’ hard work and dedication to his son carried over to the football field as well, where won Miami’s 2011 Melching Leadership Award, awarded at a postseason event.
In a “Behind The Facemask” interview weeks before his senior season kicked off, Nicolas broke down what it meant to wear the orange and green—which reads even more meaningful now with him gone:
—“I’m a Hurricane because it gives me a heartfelt commitment to the game. I love the game and I love the tradition here. There’s nothing I love more than being a Hurricane.”
—“I knew I wanted to be a Hurricane my junior year of high school. I really didn’t think I would be recruited by UM. I wasn’t really on their radar until some of the coaches came to one of my games and let me know I had an offer. I was like, “Man, I’m going to UM!’ A lot more schools started coming into the picture my senior year, but my heart was with the University of Miami the entire time.”
—“Seeing NFL players come back, it doesn’t get any better as far as motivation goes. You see the work they put in to get where they are. There’s no slack. They don’t take time off. They put in the work constantly. I’ve seen Antrel Rolle almost every day of the summer, and he and I talk a lot. To see things like that, it’s just motivation. I know I can be in the same position, I just have to work and keep pushing.”
—“Running through the smoke is unexplainable. The feeling you get is just amazing. It’s something you can’t even talk about, because the feeling you get, the only reason you know it is because you’re running through it. You feel unstoppable. You feel that everything is going to be on point that day, when you come through that smoke. It’s just a feeling of power, of overwhelming pleasure, knowing that you’re about to go out there and dominate your opponent.”
—“Coach Golden is about intensity and about getting it done. Whether you’re with it or not, the only choice you have is to get it done. That’s the thing I like about him, he leaves no room for mistakes. When everything you do is watched and critiqued, it makes you want to go out and play your best. I feel like he’s going to bring the best out of guys, and that’s what I love.”
Golden was present both yesterday and today at Jackson Memorial Hospital with the Nicolas family. The Miami head coach was visibly distraught over the situation and condition of his former player.
Regarding the Hurricanes family, it’s yet another heartbreaking loss. A member of this beloved, close-knit “U Family” gone way too soon—most by way of bullets or high speeds on the open road.
Kevin Gibbs was killed as as passenger in a speeding car in 1989. Jerome Brown crashed a Corvette on a wet road, while taking it for a test drive in June 1992. Weeks prior Shane Curry was gunned down outside a nightclub, having recently achieved his NFL dream.
A few years later Marlin Barnes was brutally murdered in a UM campus apartment by his then-girlfriend’s jilter lover.
Chris Campbell perished behind the wheel, losing control and hitting a tree just over a month after Miami secured the 2001 national championship. Two years later, Al Blades died as a passenger in a car that plunged into a canal, where the former safety drowned.
Bryan Pata was gunned down outside his Miami apartment in 2006, soon after leaving a Hurricanes practice. The following year, former safety Sean Taylor—a budding NFL superstar—was shot in his South Dade home in a botched burglary.
Now Nicolas—a week prior to his 25th birthday, having already endured so much, and just as it looked like he was on the verge of a comeback—both on and off the field. Damn
Our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the Nicolas family and all who knew JoJo. Gone way too soon, like so many other University of Miami greats. #UFAMILY
Click Here To Donate To The JoJo Nicolas Memorial Fund.