Nickerson, whose son Hardy Jr. is a sophomore who plays for the Dragons, was O'Dowd's linebackers coach last season and takes over for 25-year veteran Paul Perenon, whose contract was not renewed.
Nickerson spent 16 years in the NFL, most notably with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and spent time as a linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears. He also served stints as an assistant at Providence Day School and Charlotte Country Day School, both located in Charlotte, N.C.
"Any time I can teach football, that's my passion," Nickerson said. "I love teaching football. It's all about the kids. For the kids, it's about the opportunity to go beyond the x's and o's and teach some of the valuable lessons you learn in life."
Nickerson's immense football background was a big selling point for O'Dowd.
"We feel he brings an incredible leadership ability garnered from being a team captain at the highest level, as a coach and especially his work with disadvantaged youth through his charity organizations," Dragons athletic director Mike Bowler said in a release. "His ability to communicate with everyone will make him an incredible ambassador for Bishop O'Dowd. His passion for football will be contagious throughout our community and will make for a great experience for all."
Nickerson said it's his goal for O'Dowd to be in position to compete for a state championship.
"I think we have to go out and play football with a lot of effort and enthusiasm," Nickerson said. "You do that, and guys are enjoying playing football, and good things happen. That's the goal right off the bat, to create that type of excitement."
Nickerson said it's always been in his blood to be a coach.
"I've always had the coach's mentality," he said. "My wife and kids call me 'linebacker man' because I'm always pointing out something, always coaching.
"I've always felt like I've had a gift for teaching and helping kids. Not only helping kids but helping the guys I coached with the Bears. I always felt like I wanted to coach and felt like I'd be a coach at some point. I'm excited."