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Nix shows wisdom in returning to Notre Dame

Dec 18, 2012, 12:23 PM EDT

Santa Louis Nix III AP

You could forgive Louis Nix for capitalizing on the hard work he’s put in as a football player. Committing to Notre Dame with the program in the middle of a coaching transition, the high school senior from a hard knock neighborhood and an oversized family, brought a preternatural maturity and wisdom that belies his jokester persona that’s turned him into one of the most beloved players on the Irish roster.

That maturity helped him pick Notre Dame, even without knowing the team’s defensive scheme or plans at head coach.

“I don’t believe it was a risk,” Nix said of committing to Notre Dame without a head coach in place. “You don’t come to college for a coach. I wasn’t coming to college because of a Nick Saban or a Brian Kelly or anything. I came for the school.”

That Nix found his match in South Bend, Indiana is one of the wonderful things about college football. That he’s been able to immerse himself into a school and a culture as remarkably different from the one he grew up in should be part of any recruiting pitch Notre Dame coaches give.

Yet it hasn’t been easy for Nix. He spent his first year at college reshaping who he was on both the inside and the outside, transforming a body that pushed upwards to almost 370 pounds, and training himself to be disciplined in an academic structure unlike anything he ever experienced growing up. Nix’s tremendous sense of humor and flair for life helped him as a Film, Television and Theater major, as he created online personas and viral YouTube videos.

But the work he’s done on the field — turning himself into one of the most immovable and athletic nose guards in the country — has been a tremendous credit to Nix, and has given him the opportunity to even consider the NFL after just two seasons of competition on the field. And while the allure of playing at the next level was a serious consideration, the decision to return to school was one Nix made even without hearing from the league, pulling the trigger preemptively — not unlike his choice to head north for college three years ago.

“It’s like the recruiting process,” Nix said of the uncertainty. “People want to know when you’re going to commit, where you’re going to sign, and once you do it, it’s a huge weight off your shoulders.”

For Nix, there were a variety of factors that played into the decision. But one large one was Senior Day. It’s a moment that can transcend sport, a rite of passage where an athlete and his parents meet on the field, taking a minute to acknowledge the road that it took to get there. And it was a moment that was too special for Nix and especially his mother, Stephanie Wingfield, to pass up.

“She called me every day like ‘I can’t wait to walk on the field with you for Senior Day,'” Nix said yesterday. “In high school, she didn’t get to do Senior Day with me. She barely made it to any of my games. She didn’t do the Senior Day in high school and she cried. That was a big one for me.”

That’s because Wingfield had bills to pay and mouths to feed, supporting Nix and his ten siblings, working that evening at her job in a hospital cafeteria.

“She just had to work all the time,” Nix said. “I couldn’t afford to let her take off and she couldn’t afford to take off. And she cried when it happened and she was kind of mad at me. She really wanted to be there and I walked on the field by myself and people were like, ‘Where are his parents?’ She didn’t like stuff like that.”

“This will give her the opportunity to come up and do that for once. And be happy.”

Special moments like that are enough to defer a dream that could immediately end any double-shifts for Nix’s mother, and take them out of a cramped home that’s bursting at the seams.

“We’ve been surviving this far. We’ll be okay, I guess,” Nix said.

Returning for another season will also allow Nix to get his degree, giving him a fallback plan in case things don’t work out in the NFL. It’s a big reason why Nix chose Notre Dame in the first place, and a big reason why the junior will go from one of the biggest reclamation projects on the Irish roster to one of the finest players in the country.

“When I got here I was one of those guys in the back, just trying to make it — you know, out of shape,” Nix said. “At the same time, I didn’t give up on myself and no one gave up on me. I get better as time goes by. Hopefully I’m a better person, better man, and better player next year.”



  1. kiopta1 - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Awesome stuff from Irish Chocolate. Stick to it man and your hard work and the ND connection will take you far. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

  2. 808raiderinparadise - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    This will help the transition of losing Te’o ….

    Nix is going to play one of the most crucial roles Jan 7th as well.

    Wommack needs to be occupied as well as the center for Alabama’s line. The better job he does of that, the better chance the defense has to make Lacey & Yeldon make cuts behind the line of scrimmage and disrupt the downhill lanes.

    I want the ball/game in McCarron’s hands. I think if it is, ND has a great chance.

  3. bernhtp - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Senior Day has turned into the biggest recruiting event of the year, especially for those 6-star recruits we keep on getting.

    Louis has turned into an impressive young man, and in so many ways. Great to have him back.

  4. jcarrillo7828 - Dec 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    It’s too bad they will never give a Heisman to a lineman. Nix exemplifies everything a Heisman winner should be just like Teo. His position is not as noticeable as QB’s and receivers but every succesfull defensive play starts with him. His character, just like so many ND players, is light years ahead in maturity than most of these ball players. I love that I could watch this team and tell my son that he should strive to be like so many of our ND players.

  5. ctfivula - Dec 18, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Standup guy that Louis Nix is. His family is scraping by and he can see the big picture in coming back for a senior season at Notre Dame. Not to mention the extra couple of million it will earn him. This guy will dominate next year. How are teams going to stop him and Tuit? Things just keep getting better for the Irish.

  6. North of Denver - Dec 18, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Wow. Had to forward that to my wife (mother of my 3 boys)…
    Just an amazing story.

    Keith, Next headline (please): “Diaco shows wisdom in returning to Notre Dame”

  7. harvupdyke - Dec 18, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Other than of course Alabama football, y’all know the best part about the South?

    ……the dames

    Roll dam tide.

    • bernhtp - Dec 18, 2012 at 5:51 PM

      The only dames that are going to be rolling out of Miami with smiles on their faces are Notre Dames.

      • yogihilt - Dec 18, 2012 at 7:50 PM


  8. millersirish1986 - Dec 18, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Bernhtp wow perfect!!! If louis nix can take barrett jones out of the game and demand double teams then that will be 1 less hat to get down field to be put on teo..if teo gets to roam sidline to sideline then that will equal success for the irish defense…the wild card is golson, if he plays anywhere near his capabilities then the irish will turn some heads…brian just dont forget about riddick and company when you get into the redzone because my gosh we could of put it on usc…GO IRISH!!!

  9. jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 19, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Man, Louis Nix really seems to “get it.” I love this kid.

  10. mediocrebob - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    This is what college football is about. This is what The University of Notre Dame is all about. Excited to watch this guy in blue and gold for another season and throughout his career in the NFL. Gonna be tough to replace physically and inside the locker room.

    Go Irish

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