Eagle Scout battling for playing time on one of college football’s best teams

A portrait of Addison Nichols, Eagle Scout and University of Tennessee football player
Eagle Scout Addison Nichols is an offensive lineman at the University of Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Scouting still plays a big role in the life of big Addison Nichols, a college football player at the University of Tennessee.

So much so, that it might be one of the few things that can take priority over football.

Nichols, a 6-foot-5, 327-pound redshirt freshman offensive lineman, doesn’t miss many workouts, but the Eagle Scout missed one earlier this summer to participate in the West Tennessee Area Council’s 2023 Celebration of Scouting banquet, with the permission of head coach Josh Heupel.

“He was very, very awesome for letting me go do that,” says Nichols. “I really appreciated it.”

At the event, Nichols told a crowd of youth and adults what Scouting has meant to him over the years.

“You can be an athlete … you can be in band … you can be in theater … you can be in anything, and still be in Scouts,” says Nichols. “All it’s going to do is benefit your life.

“It’s something that will be with you for the rest of your life.”

Nichols would know.

In high school, he was active in taekwondo, track and field, and, of course, Scouting, all while participating in church activities, working part time at a grocery store and making excellent grades.

In college, not only has he learned to balance the requirements of being a full-time student and a Division I athlete, he also volunteers at a local animal shelter and last year participated in the VOLeaders Academy, a program designed to help student-athletes become leaders.

Addison Nichols prepares to pass block during a football practice at Tennessee
Nichols, center, says his goal is to get better at one thing every day. Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

A big-time high school recruit

Before earning the rank of Eagle Scout as a member of Troop 379 in the Atlanta Area Council, Nichols was a Cub Scout who enjoyed all the things Cub Scouts get to do.

“We got to build cars and go on trips,” he says. “It was an opportunity to learn and to get closer to my dad.”

In a 2021 feature for NBC Sports, Nichols’ mom, Missy, said, “Early on, we decided we wanted him to stay busy and do things that would benefit him long term.”

One of those things was Scouting.

“We were big into Scouting,” his dad, Brian, said in that same interview. “That was a lot of fun for both he and I, to do those trips together, and to have a lot of time to bond.”

Nichols began attracting the attention of college coaches when he was just a freshman in high school.

As the intensity of the recruiting process began to increase, Nichols began work on his Eagle Scout project, restoring a local park near his home. He installed benches, put down mulch to suppress weeds and generally spruced up what had become a very rundown, unattractive place.

“The coolest thing about it is that we installed these benches, and when I came back to check on it two weeks later, somebody had come and painted these cool designs on them,” he says. “I thought it was so cool how somebody had come and added on to my project. I still have no idea who it was.”

The summer before his senior year, he announced that he was going to be taking his talents to the University of Tennessee.

A photo of Addison Nichols pregame
Nichols, at far left during a pregame moment of prayer, says he chose to renovate a local park for his Eagle Scout service project because “I wanted there to be a place where kids can go play outside, experience the ground and the Earth and enjoy these beautiful days that we have been given by God.” Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

A big-time college freshman

Nichols graduated from Greater Atlanta Christian School a semester early so he could enroll at Tennessee and be eligible to participate in spring practice in 2022. He appeared in two games as a true freshman the next fall, meaning he was eligible to take a redshirt year and still be classified as a freshman in 2023.

The fact that Nichols chose to play for the Vols shows that he’s not afraid of competition.

Tennessee’s offensive line is full of experienced players. A depth chart released on Monday listed senior starters at four of the five positions, and a junior starter in the fifth.

There are 10 total players listed on the offensive line two-deep depth chart. Seven of them are seniors. Two are juniors. And then there’s Nichols, the redshirt freshman, listed as a backup at right guard, and expected to play plenty of meaningful snaps this year.

“At the end of the day, we’re making each other better so we can be the best team we can be,” Nichols says. “Being able to go against such talented individuals is amazing. They make me better and I hope I can make them better, too.”

His goal, he said, is to simply get a little bit better each day, not only in football, but in everything else, too.

“I try to focus on one thing, and get better at that every day, then stack a bunch of those days on top of each other, and good things will come,” he says.

A portrait of Tennessee offensive line Addison Nichols, an Eagle Scout
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Big-time lessons learned in Scouting

One of the many things Nichols says he learned from Scouting is how to manage his time.

“Learning how to manage that type of stuff when you’re in high school really helps prepare you for college, and then also for life after college,” he says. “In college, you might have a class at 11:30 a.m., then another at 5:30 p.m. When are you going to go to the gym? When are you going to have breakfast, lunch and dinner? When are you going to do your homework?

“Those skills come in handy for me every single day.”

Another thing Nichols says has proved valuable in college is the leadership skills he learned as a Scout. This was especially helpful during the time he spent in the VOLeaders Academy, an experience that ended with a service-oriented trip to the Philippines.

“We took what we had learned about leadership and used it to help make athletics more accessible there,” Nichols says. “It was an amazing experience.”

Then, it was back to football, back to working out, back to fighting for a role on what could be a special team in Knoxville, with just the one break for the West Tennessee Area Council fundraiser.

During that event, when Nichols was up on stage, he was surprised to find himself in the middle of his own Eagle Scout court of honor. Nichols never got a proper court of honor due to the coronavirus pandemic, and, unbeknownst to him, his parents and West Tennessee Area officials had planned a mini court of honor for him as a way to say thanks.

“It was awesome,” says Nichols. “I got to give an Eagle Scout pin to my dad. And they gave me another pin to give to my mother.

“It was super special to be able to do that.”

The Volunteers, ranked 12th in the Associated Press Top 25 and 10th in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, open their 2023 season this Saturday at 11 a.m. Central on ABC against the University of Virginia.

Addison and his father Brian stand on stage during the West Area Council fundraiser
Addison, left, and his father Brian. Photo courtesy of the West Tennessee Area Council

About Aaron Derr 457 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.