The Delaware Blue Hen is now a Chicago Bear
University of Delaware’s defensive lineman Bilal Nichols was drafted on day three of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round with 145th pick.
Nichols becomes the first Blue Hen player drafted since 2015 when tight end Nick Boyle was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Blue Hen also becomes the first Delaware native from University of Delaware to be drafted since 1985 when Dan Reeder was drafted in fifth round as well. If the Reeder name seems familiar, well Dan is the father of two current Blue Hens Troy and Colby Reeder.
The humble Blue Hen told reporters via a conference call what it means to him to be drafted:
“Honestly, I’m speechless. This is a moment that most people only dream of and to be given this opportunity, I’m extremely humbled and grateful,” Nichols said. “I can’t thank the Bears enough for believing in me and giving me a chance to prove myself against the best in the world. The support and guidance from my family, coaches, teammates and friends are what got me to this day and I can’t put into words what they mean to me.”
The Delaware defensive lineman is going to a Chicago Bears team with a University of Delaware connection and that is head coach Matt Nagy.
Nagy played at quarterback for the Blue Hens and was an All-American there in 2001.
The Delaware native had only positive things to say about his new head coach in Chicago:
“I’d like to personally thank coach Nagy also for believing in me. It’s great, him coming from my school. We have a great relationship. I was extremely happy for him once he got his job in Chicago.”
Nichols will help bolster Chicago’s defensive line which definitely could use a versatile big man after the team lost a lot depth in the off season.
In his freshman year at Delaware, Nichols had 19 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss.
In his Sophomore season, Nichols had 29 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception and 1 pass deflection.
In his junior season, Nichols had 25 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 5 pass deflections.
In his senior season, Nichols served as the co-captain of the football team and his stats were 56 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 sack, 2 Interceptions, 4 pass break up and 1 blocked kick.
In his four seasons at Delaware, Nichols has earned many honors including CAA Academic All-Conference team, Third team All-CAA honors, earned UD Team Sportsmanship Award, Blue Hen Touchdown Club Defensive Player of the Week(3x),National Strength and Conditioning Association All-American, preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association, All-Colonial Athletic Association football first team honors, second team All-CAA honors, 3 letters and second team All-East selection.
In 2017 season, Nichols earned 3rd team Phil Steele Publications All-American, team captain, East-West Shrine Game Participant, 2nd team ECAC All-East, 1st team All-Colonial Athletic Association and Blue Hen Touchdown Club Defensive Player of the Week (Cornell).
Nichols was a stud in high school as well which was at Hodgson Vo-Tech. The 300 pound lineman earned numerous awards there including all third team at defensive end in 2013.
Most of his career at Delaware, Nichols played a 4-3 scheme until last season with new coach Danny Rocco who switched to a 3-4 scheme.
The former Blue Hen says time under both schemes helped make him a more versatile player at his position:
“Both of those I felt like gave me a chance to show my versatility,” Nichols said. “I feel like it’s very key because a defensive lineman should be able to play both schemes. About the three-man front, I really love the fact that you’re putting a lot of pressure on your D-linemen to make plays and stop the run. We really had the dogs up front and we had the D-line to shut everything down. That was something I really loved about the three-man front.”
The one year with a 3-4 scheme under his belt will help Nichols in Chicago because defensive coordinator Vic Fangio runs that scheme.
On the confrence call, Nichols was asked to describe himself as a player and he said, “I feel as though I use my athletic ability to my advantage. I feel as though I use my quickness and my hands as well. Those are some of the things that helped me become successful.”
The former Blue Hens quickness was definitely shown at the NFL Scouting Combine where Nichols ran the 40 yard dash in 4.95 seconds which was the second fastest for a lineman.
Nichols hard work has made his childhood dream into a reality with him playing for one most historic teams in the NFL.
“I always believed that as a kid,” Nichols said. “The first time I stepped on campus, that was always a goal of mine. I knew I had the opportunity to get there. Once my senior year came around, it really started to click. Once I got the chance to see scouts coming to practice and things like that, it really started to click for me.”
It sounds like Nichols is bringing that work ethic that got him drafted to the Chicago Bears.
“I’m willing to do anything for the team,” Nichols said. “Wherever they’d love to put me, I’ll be more than happy to play.”