DETROIT – The son of a landscaper, Noah Nicklin has never been afraid to get his hands dirty.
“He makes us do our fair share of work around the house,” Nicklin said, referring to his father, Thomas. “But I will say he’s never made us do it alone. He’s always right there with us.”
So, when Nicklin received word that he was named one of the brightest and hardest-working scholars at Wayne State University, he wanted to immediately share the news with his dad.
“That was a good phone call to make,” said Nicklin, who was selected to this year’s Mike Ilitch School of Business 25 Under 25. “Obviously, mom and dad love hearing stuff like that.”
The Mike Ilitch School of Business 25 Under 25 program recognizes undergraduate and graduate students who have demonstrated success in at least two categories (academics, leadership, professional development and campus or community service). To be selected, students submit an essay, resume and, in some cases, reference letters or other documentation to verify that they have served their community.
This year’s awardees will be honored at the Mike Ilitch School of Business Gala on Friday, April 14.
As an M.B.A. student, Nicklin maintains a 3.91 grade-point average. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in finance and a minor in sports management last year. He was accepted into the Accelerated Graduate Enrollment program, which allowed him to enroll in graduate-level classes while earning his bachelor’s.
But the 23-year-old Nicklin does more than attend classes and labs at Wayne State; he continues to successfully balance the campus life of a student-athlete as a member of the Warriors football team. The recipient of the Sam and Leonard Fink Memorial Scholarship and Graduate Professional Scholarship, Nicklin is a four-time selection to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) All-Academic Excellence team. He also serves as the leadership development coordinator and is the team’s representative on the WSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
An offensive lineman, Nicklin admits that juggling academics and athletics isn’t always easy. But again, he credits his dad, and mom, Karen, for the work ethic that he and his siblings learned at an early age.
“We have a lot of tools in place between our academic staff and those who help out, but it really goes back to my parents and how we were raised,” said Nicklin, who plans to play football in his final year of athletic eligibility this fall. “Our parents have always allowed us to be our own person and encourage us to do our own thing. But it was more so an expectation that you take care of your business and you handle it and you do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Nicklin, who is on pace to receive his master’s in December, hopes to eventually land a career opportunity that combines his corporate finance knowledge and love of sports.
“That would be a dream,” said Nicklin, who has interned in the past with United Wholesale Mortgage and Northwestern Mutual. “I’ve always had a passion for sports and football. But right now, it’s about gaining as much experience as I can get, and hopefully that’ll apply to the future. But obviously, I would love to one day stay in sports, but I’ve always enjoyed the corporate finance world, too.”
Nicklin said his passion for math was formed as a student at Clarkston High School, where he credits teacher Kevin Smith, who serves as Clarkston’s Business Professionals of America chapter advisor.
“Mr. Smith kind of sparked the interest for business during my high school days,” Nicklin said, “and then I think just the love for math and people took over, and finances just kind of made sense to me.”
Max Nicklin is on the same academic and athletic track at Wayne State. Noah Nicklin’s younger brother, Max Nicklin is finishing his senior year at the Ilitch School and is set to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s in finance and a minor in economics. He’s also a wide receiver and special teams contributor on the football team and a three-time selection to the GLIAC All-Academic Excellence team.
The brothers share a keen insight for business, though their focus is on different concentrations.
“I’m more on the economic finance side,” said Max Nicklin, who maintains a 3.78 GPA. “I know eventually I want to get into investment banking and hedge fund work, and eventually get into private equity work.”
Unlike many sibling rivalries, animosity has never really been an issue for the Nicklins. Though the brothers admit their younger sister, Natalie, now a freshman at Grand Valley State University, is probably the toughest of the three siblings. Of course, there’s the occasional driveway basketball game that’s turned physical, but for the most part, the two have always remained best friends.
“It’s crazy when people ask, they refer to brothers fighting and the rivalries,” Max Nicklin said. “I would say there’s a slight competition. You always want to one-up your brother, but it’s good natured and it’s always been back and forth.”
But Noah Nicklin added, “If I do something good and Max wants to get there, do something better, I’m going to help him get there. And he’d do the same for me.”
In high school, the brothers celebrated a football championship together when Clarkston captured the 2017 Division 1 state title at Ford Field. That year, Noah Nicklin was a senior captain, but an injury forced him to miss the game.
The following year, Max Nicklin returned to the state finals, only to lose by one point.
Still, the experience of learning from legendary head coach Kurt Richardson continues to help the brothers on and off the field.
“He’s a guy that instilled a lot of discipline and hard work in us,” Max Nicklin said of Richardson, who coached for 35 years. “I have a lot of respect for him and I know Noah does as well. He was always someone you wanted to work hard for, always someone you wanted to be disciplined for and do the right things. And I think that’s something we carried over here into Wayne State.
“Even with our internships, I’ve had bosses say, ‘Wow, you wake up at 6 a.m., you go to the workouts, and then you come here, and you’re here on time. You’re here before anybody else, and you’re the last ones to leave.’ It’s not really a surprise or anything new; it’s just what we have always been accustomed to: work harder than everybody else, do your best and good things will happen.”
Though the last few seasons haven’t gone their way in the win-loss column, the Nicklin brothers are amped for the gridiron future behind first-year coach Tyrone Wheatley.
“The thing that’s gotten me most excited is really the staff that he’s brought in,” said Noah Nicklin, who has been a starter at center and left guard. “I think they have a really good outlook for the future. And especially in my position, it’s really cool because I get to be excited to be not only a part of it for one more year, but I also get to be excited because I get to see where the future is going.”
The Warriors will hold their annual spring game at Tom Adams Field on Saturday, April 15. Kickoff is at noon.