Former Hurricane football player JoJo Nicolas was remembered Saturday as “the quiet storm” at the University of Miami.
He was remembered as a little brother who taught his three older brothers not to fight.
He was remembered as responsible and studious and devoted to an infant son, born prematurely, who preceded him in death.
And he was remembered as a father and son who died too young but left a thriving 5-month-old child and nearly 25 years of memories to keep his spirit alive.
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“Daddy, you lost your only son, but now you have JoJo’s son,” Nicolas’ uncle —pastor Walter Horn — told Josselet Nicolas during a moving, rhythmic eulogy accompanied by a four-piece ensemble at Glendale Missionary Baptist Church in Miami. “Can I tell you something? JoJo just made MVP.”
Nicolas, who grew up in Florida City and graduated from Homestead High in 2007, died a week ago Wednesday, five days shy of his 25th birthday. He crashed his Lexus sedan into a tractor-trailer while heading west on the MacArthur Causeway following an early birthday celebration on Miami Beach.
His brother Elliot Davis said the family is still awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology reports, but that Nicolas was on the phone with his girlfriend and received a text from former UM teammate Graig Cooper moments before the crash.
Nicolas told his girlfriend to “hold on, it’s Cooper texting him,” Davis said. “Then she heard the crash. The second he took his eyes off the road the crash happened.”
“This is definitely a hard moment,” said Antrel Rolle, a New York Giants safety who grew up with fellow safety Nicolas and commissioned a painting, on an easel at the funeral, of Nicolas wearing his UM uniform on one side of the canvas and in his former New York Giants uniform on the other. “Very rarely do you find guys with such good character as JoJo Nicolas. He had a certain persona that could brighten anyone’s day.
“It’s extremely unfortunate … but God makes no mistakes. By this happening I’m more than positive it saved the lives of a thousand others — myself, for example. It’s a tragic accident, just a simple text looking down. It just goes as a lesson: Stay off your phone while driving. As we’ve seen, anything can happen in the blink of an eye.”
Rolle was one of several former Hurricanes who attended the funeral, among them Shayon Green, Matt Bosher, Ryan Hill, Sam Shields, Brandon McGee, Javarris James, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Richard Gordon and Bruce Johnson. Nicolas was buried afterward at neighboring Graceland Cemetery in Richmond Heights.
Coach Al Golden sat by himself in the church, with many of his assistants and other staff members nearby. Cooper attended but chose not to comment.
Team chaplains Steve DeBardelaben and Steve Caldwell were among about 300 attendees, with Caldwell delivering a short but eloquent reflection.
Caldwell asked everyone in the “UM family” to stand while he spoke, saying Nicolas, “the quiet storm,” was a strong leader and thanking his family “for loaning us a wonderful man.”
Nicolas is survived by son Jayden, mother Sharon Grant, father Josselet Nicolas and brothers Elliot Davis, Aaron Davis and Abner Davis. All except for Abner, of Jacksonville, are from the Homestead area.
He also leaves his grandmother Carolyn Davis, several aunts and uncles and dozens of nieces, nephews and cousins.
“Tragically he lost his son, and there was nothing I could say to comfort him,” Elliot Davis said during the service, referring to the late baby Joseph, who was born four months premature in 2011 and died Aug. 19, 2011. The baby’s photo leaned against Nicolas’ left arm in the coffin.
“…God blessed him again with another son,” Davis said of Jayden, who was held by Nicolas’ mother during the service. “I look in his eyes and I see JoJo looking back at me and it’s remarkable. ...We still have him here with Baby Jayden. We still have him here.”