Kissimmee Osceola linebacker Riley Nicholson was quite surprised Monday when he was offered a football scholarship by UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe.
"It's pretty exciting and it's a good offer for me," Nicholson said prior to practice Monday afternoon. "It's close to home and everything so it's pretty cool.
"I didn't expect it at all. I've never really had any contact with them until this year. It's just been a little bit here and there and I wasn't expecting an offer. It just kind of came out of nowhere, I guess."
It was Nicholson's 20th FBS scholarship offer and it puts the Knights right in the hunt with his other top schools Iowa State, NC State, West Virginia and Purdue.
"Those are really the schools that stand out more than others right now," Nicholson said.
Nicholson said Taaffe was apologetic about not offering him sooner in the process and wants the 6-foot-1, 224-pound linebacker to visit the campus as soon as possible.
"He said he was sorry about getting such a late start on my recruiting and getting an offer out to me," Nicholson said. "He said he wants to make it up to me by inviting me to UCF sometime soon, like tomorrow or Wednesday so I can meet coach [George] O'Leary. I think me and my mom are going to go over there tomorrow [Tuesday]."
He's not really sure how UCF sits in his overall evaluation of schools, having just been offered.
"I'd be able to answer that better after tomorrow," said Nicholson, who is the No. 12-ranked player in the Sentinel's 2015 Central Florida Super60 and No. 77 in the Sentinel's 2015 Florida Top 100. "I just want to see how it feels when I'm there ... see how things are around the coaches and players."
UCF being close to home will certainly help the Knights in the recruiting process, but Nicholson said it will not likely play a huge factor in his decision.
"It's important but it's more about feeling like I'm at home and how I feel around the players and the coaches, so it doesn't really matter where I am," he said. "I just want to feel comfortable around those people."
Nicholson, who averaged eight tackles per game last season as one of the Kowboys' outside linebackers, said he did not hold anything against the Knights for not offering earlier.
"It doesn't really matter at this point," Nicholson said. "I'm just glad I got the offer, finally.
"They're an up-and-coming program, for sure. They were able to finish No. 10 last year. They have made some huge strides in recruiting."
Nicholson, who will play middle linebacker this season, said it's not lost on him how he could be able to go to the hometown school and possibly give UCF fans a local player they could embrace.
"I think it's pretty cool, just because of the story about Blake Bortles and how he's become such a well known name around the Orlando area," Nicholson said. "Maybe I could do that one day."
Nicholson plans to make his decision sometime before the season starts in September.
"It's been fun," he said of the process. "I want to commit as soon as possible, as soon as I can take some visits."
He said he plans to commit prior to the official-visit period, which begins Sept. 1.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.