Leftovers & Links: Louis Nix’s missing Jordans, a Notre Dame Christmas story

Louis Nix Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Who was Louis Nix?

Yes, a former Under Armour All-American, the fulcrum of Notre Dame’s dominant 2012 defense, a three-year starter at defensive tackle.
An outsized personality intent on bringing joy to others, be it publicly as “Irish Chocolate” or privately when he saw a friend trying to stop the bleeding of a broken nose.
And a Florida native who committed to a school in northwestern Indiana when it did not even have a football coach, he was so intent on challenging and bettering himself.

But he was much more than that. To understand the depth of Nix, found dead over the weekend at 29, the only person to turn to is the man himself.

Background: Some dorms at Notre Dame collect clothing to donate to the Salvation Army each Christmas. The cardboard collection boxes are usually placed next to the dorm’s mailboxes. During Lou’s years in Alumni Hall, a few pairs of sweats size XXL or XXXL or XXXXL would end up in the box. Everyone immediately knew who donated them, but that was not all Lou gave, something that no one knew until he felt forced to speak up, bare some of his background, to encourage others to “Do the right thing.”

The following is an email quoted in its entirety, from Nix to his dorm his sophomore year, an email that still circulates among some of his dormmates as a reminder to “Do the right thing.” The only edit applied to this email is a few paragraph breaks.

From: Louis Nix
Date: Mon, Dec. 12, 2011, at 7:11 PM
Subject: Missing Shoes

Hey Dawgs,

I have been feeling really disappointed these last couple days to the point where I’m compelled to send an email to all of you. A few days ago I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit and went through a lot of my belongings to see what I could donate.

Growing up I never had a lot…I know a lot of you have never had that experience before. I wanted to donate my things to make someone’s Christmas a little better who barely has anything. It is so difficult living like that, I know first-hand.

Among some of the things I donated were 5 pairs of my Jordans. I walked past the donation box today and none of my shoes are there anymore…but all the rest of the donated belongings are still there. Only my shoes were missing.

I worked hard to earn money for those shoes; they are among some of my most prized possessions. That was why it was a difficult decision for me to decide to donate them…but I don’t wear them as much anymore, and I told myself I was doing a really great thing for someone in need.

To walk past a few days later and see my shoes are gone is a horrible feeling. It is a slap in my face and the values that this University stands for. I really hope that whoever took my donated shoes can find it in their heart to bring them back–this really means a lot to me.

Merry Christmas, guys. Do the right thing.

Louis Nix III

Louis Nix Brian Kelly
Louis Nix with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly after the 2014 season opener, an Irish victory against Rice. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune-Imagn Content Services, LLC)

No one seems to remember if the shoes were returned, but half a dozen different guys from that dorm remember donating to the box because of Lou’s email. With or without his Jordans, he had made “someone’s Christmas a little better who barely has anything.”

When you reread Lou’s email nearly a decade later — even outside the mournful shadow of this last week — the vulnerability and openness, the sincerity and urgency, the writing all jump out.

A private person revealed an uncomfortable personal truth and gave up some of his tangible proof that he was moving forward in order to encourage his peers to step up and “Do the right thing.”

That’s who Louis Nix was.


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