Apr 6, 2013, 1:27 PM EDT
Last week, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was unequivocal in his evaluation of rising senior Louis Nix.
“We think he’s the best nose guard in America,” Kelly said.
As good as Nix has been as the centerpiece of the Irish’s defensive line, he might be better in front of a microphone. Nix was made available after the Irish’s practice on Friday and as usual the singularly unique Nix was at his best. The rising senior, who likely enters his final season at Notre Dame, wears his emotions on his sleeve, and never gives an answer that feels canned or rehearsed. How else can you explain his evaluation of where the Irish are this spring, and what their goals might be.
“Coming off that ass whooping from Alabama, we just want to get back on track and get focused,” Nix said. “Make our way back to the national championship game, and hopefully do a better job.”
That kind of attitude, from one of the team’s best players no less, should alleviate any concern Irish fans have about Notre Dame’s players entering next season too confident. Nix’s attitude about his own personal goals was equally as refreshing, avoiding any NFL talk and keeping his focus on the task at hand.
“Just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Nix said. “Just going with what Coach Kelly, Coach Elston, and Coach Diaco tell me to do. Work in the weight room. Work in the class room. Just keep doing what I do.”
What Nix does is pretty impressive. While he laughed off questions about his added weight (likely not so much a weight gain but an accounting adjustment to better reflect the truth), he’s also taken on an unlikely leadership role, mentoring younger players that’ll be key contributors along the line, but doing so in a way that’s vintage Nix. (Rising sophomore Jarron Jones said Nix’s words of encouragement usually include, “You suck.”)
But Nix’s playful banter with teammates is now juxstaposed with a work ethic that matches his talent. Nix skipped out on spring break this year, choosing to go to Arizona instead, where he ran hills and trained. He plans to do the same in his brief summer break, avoiding a trip back home to Florida.
“I usually go home and do nothing and gain weight and eat. There’s no purpose to do that,” Nix said.
That type of maturity is a long way from the guy we met three years ago. A long way from the guy who spent his freshman season sitting out, working to transform his body while watching his teammates play in Yankee Stadium from his dorm room, or celebrating a long-sought victory over USC on an empty campus over Thanksgiving break. (“So that sucked,” Nix said.)
Nix sees the big picture now, understanding that everything he’s doing now will pay off. Possible as soon as this time next year.
“I’ve got all the time in the world to go on spring break,” Nix said. “I don’t want to ball on a budget. That’s the worst. I want to hopefully make some money in the draft, if hopefully I make it or don’t get hurt, get a couple dollars in my pocket and go do what I want.”