Mike Nicklas manhandled his opponents in the trenches.

A 6-2, 260-pound senior left tackle for the Staples football team, he earned First Team All-FCIAC and All-State honors.

"It feels great," says Nicklas. "I had a lot of fun this year, playing as a team. We rallied around each other and it was a great year."

Another award Nicklas earned was a scholarship to play for Division I-AA Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

"I'm really excited," says Nicklas. "It's a great opportunity to play at the next level and it will be a great time."

Staples was productive both running and throwing the ball on offense because the offensive line did a great job of opening up holes for the running backs and provided stellar protection for the quarterback. Nicklas was instrumental in the team's offensive productivity.

"We had a great offensive line this year and we played as a unit, which made the difference," Nicklas says. "My line-mates helped me be successful."

Even with the teamwork, each individual lineman still has to do his part and Nicklas executed his one-on-one battles to perfection by usually dominating the opposing defensive lineman.

"I really make sure I stay balanced and it's all about form, which is one of my greatest attributes," Nicklas says.

Physical strength also contributes to his success. Nicklas benches 305 pounds, power cleans 295 and squats 480.

"We have a great strength coach in [offensive line] Coach [Tim] Romano and I credit him for my strength," says Nicklas. "He's a great strength coach and role model."

Romano, in turn, is impressed with Nicklas.

"Mike's gifted, works hard in the weight room and he learned our offense," Romano says.

Being an offensive lineman doesn't produce glory like the running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks do but their effectiveness is paramount to the success of those who play at skilled positions. Not receiving the headlines doesn't faze Nicklas.

"It's not tough because we strive for the same goal, which is to win," says Nicklas. "We don't care about press clippings and do the work in the trenches so we can fulfill our job -- which was to win."

Injuries played a role in his career. Nicklas missed most of his sophomore year with a hip injury and junior year with a broken left foot, but he was determined to get back on the field and worked hard towards rehabilitating his injuries and becoming 100 percent healthy. This enabled him to come out strong senior year.

"I did what I was told to do by my doctor and I did what I could so I could play on game day," Nicklas says. "I worked as hard as I could to heal as fast as I could."

For the first four games, Nicklas played the whole game on defense as well as offense. In the fifth game, he rotated on defense with junior Bo Gibson in order to remain fresh for offense.

On defense, Nicklas started at nose guard and deftly shut down opposing runners. He also made it tough for the quarterback.

"I followed my assignments and maintained my gaps," Nicklas says. "The coaches put us in the right position to make plays."

Nicklas also played on both sides of the ball when the field goal unit was on. When Staples kicked, he kept opponents away from his play kicker and when his unit defended against the kick, he helped his teammates gain a running start towards harassing the kicker.

"We stayed low and tried to maintain leverage," Nicklas says. "As long as we maintained our gaps, we had no problems."

Life on the gridiron began for him at age 5 when he lived in Georgia, where kids first put on pads and play full contact at that age. Nicklas was a fullback through freshman year before becoming a lineman sophomore year.

His father, Mike Sr. played at the University of New Hampshire and influenced his gravitating towards the gridiron.

"He's been a great supporter of mine in all the sports I played," Nicklas says.

When Nicklas was in third grade, his family moved to Connecticut and adjusting to his new home wasn't a problem. He played basketball from second through eighth grade and made his presence felt in the paint and played lacrosse from sixth grade through sophomore year.

Sophomore year, he was a JV wrestler in the 215-pound weight class. After that year, he decided to focus solely on football.

"I wanted to play at the next level and I worked hard to achieve my goal," Nicklas says.

Academically, he earned first honors this year. Math is his favorite subject.

"It's all about balance," Nicklas says. "I do as much work as I can during my free periods and after practice [during the season] and lifting [in the offseason], I go home and do my homework."

Nicklas may not have been an official captain but he still acted like a role model. One freshman he has helped is his brother Austin, a 6-1, 190 left tackle and nose guard.

"Mike's a good role model and has helped me a lot in football," Austin Nicklas says. "He's given me good advice on how to succeed."

The Wofford Terriers are ranked fifth nationally in I-AA and Nicklas is looking forward to play for them. Wofford isn't far from his roots.

"I definitely wanted to go down south, I like the weather there," Nicklas says.

In order to play for the Terriers, Nicklas knows he needs to raise his game to the next level.

"Ever since my football season ended, I've been working hard towards being ready for the next level," says Nicklas. "The competition will be tougher than in high school because I'm playing with the big boys. It's important I lift, run and work on my speed and strength."

Romano is confident his ex-pupil will be a fierce Terrier who'll keep his opponents down.

"Mike will do fine," says Romano. "He'll get up to 290-5 and should have a great career there."