- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Louis Nix's work all season long earned him co-defensive lineman of the year honors Friday for Notre Dame. His work between now and Jan. 7 could earn him something much bigger.
Of the many stories-within-the-story of the Irish's title-game tilt with Alabama, perhaps none is bigger than the matchup in the middle between the ascending nose guard Nix and the All-American center Barrett Jones.
"I've seen him, heard about him, he got a couple awards," Nix said of Jones, who has starred at tackle, guard and center for the Crimson Tide. "He played, like, three positions at the O-line, he's an All-America. I'm happy that he's the No. 1 center in the country — that gives me an opportunity to better myself and see where I fit at in the country with other nose tackles that went up against him."
"He's just a smart center," Nix later added. "He knows how to play the game, obviously, because he played three positions on the O-line. So it takes a real good guy to know how to play all three positions. So he's a real smart guy, really athletic, he's very strong at the point of attack. I just have to be ready for him."
With that preparation comes time to heal a wrist that Nix injured during the Irish's goal-line stand at USC in the regular-season finale. The redshirt sophomore — who, like many before him, submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board but is uncertain of his future — said he has done some work in the weight room but should be full-go come game time.
For now, the Irish's funnyman is relishing the chance to face the kind of measuring stick Alabama's vaunted front will provide, and he's ecstatic about sharing defensive lineman of the year honors with end Stephon Tuitt.
"I really never got an award in college yet, so this is the start," Nix said. "Next year I'm trying to be like Manti [Te'o.] I'm trying to get, like, seven or eight of these awards, so it's a start."
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1dMatt Fortuna and Gerry Hamilton