MEMPHIS, Tenn. – If you’re watching high school football in the city of Memphis, it’d be worth trying to catch 2014 athlete Nikia Cathey at Westwood High School. Catching him is exactly what defenders in the area are having a very tough time doing.
Cathey is averaging over 40 yards per punt return and close to 50 per kick return this season.
Cathey is an undersized wide receiver at 5-8, 185 pounds but he reports a 4.4 40 and a 10.5 100 meter time. That speed has shown up on the field and on film and has helped his Westwood team jump out to a 7-2 record on the season.
To date, Cathey has posted 345 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 33 carries, good for over 10 yards per tote. Through the air, he’s caught 13 passes for 283 yards and two more touchdowns. But it’s in the return game that he’s really excelled and set himself apart.
As a punt returner, Cathey has 12 attempts for 487 yards, for an average of over 40 yards per touch. He’s just as impressive returning kickoffs with 398 yards on only 8 attempts – almost 50 yards per return. Throw in 175 more return yards on his four interceptions and his 38 tackles on defense and Cathey truly does doe it all.
“I do everything,” Cathey said at practice last week. “I’m best at receiver and punt return. I’m dangerous on kickoff returns, punt returns and special teams. It’s all about my confidence and my speed.”
At this early stage in his recruitment, Cathey has received significant attention from Mississippi State and Ole Miss and he has already developed a relationship with Mississippi State wide receivers coach Tim Brewster.
“Coach Brewster says he’s really interested in me and he wants me to play for them,” said the speedster. “Coach Brewster is a great coach. He’s really nice.”
Cathey noted that he grew up a fan of Ole Miss but the recent interest from Mississippi State has put the Bulldogs atop the Rebels in his Mississippi pecking order. Recently he got a chance to see both programs up close in personal when he attended a game at each to see them play Auburn (Ole Miss) and Tennessee (Mississippi State).
The double-header was Cathey’s first FBS college gameday experience. The Ole Miss game was a morning kickoff and the Mississippi State game kicked in the evening. While he was impressed with both, the Mississippi State atmosphere stood out the most.
“Mississippi State was crazy,” he said. “The crowd was there an hour before the game. The stands were already packed and it was hard to sit down. They balled. Jonathan Banks and Chad Bumphis looked good. I think they’re both going to the NFL next season.”
Ole Miss impressed in its own right as well. But one thing separated the two programs.
“Ole Miss, they’re stepping up,” he said. “I can say Ole miss has got fans, their fans are crazy. With Mississippi State, cow bells. That’s all you have to say, cow bells.”
Cathey and his Westwood teammates close out the regular season with a matchup against Melrose High School on Friday night.