Nix steals show again as Irish finish spring
April, 20, 2013
By Matt Fortuna | ESPN.com
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Big Louis Nix entered the media room in Notre Dame Stadium and was immediately intercepted by sports information director Michael Bertsch.
"You know quarterbacks go to the podium," Bertsch said.
Up Nix went to the center of the cramped room, facing a throng of media members who generally hang on his every word anyway, given the fourth-year junior's penchant for saying whatever in the world is on his mind at that moment.
One such instance came early in the 2012 season, when Nix explained how younger brother Kenneth, one of his 13 siblings, had told classmates during a presentation in Jacksonville, Fla., that his big brother was the Fighting Irish's quarterback.
Nix had no idea where that idea came from, but then joked that he would love to be inserted as a Wildcat-only signal caller in the "Irish Chocolate" package, an ode to his nickname.
His dream came to fruition during the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's Blue-Gold spring game Saturday before 31,652 fans, as Nix lined up in the backfield for a two-point conversion following the game's only touchdown. He took the shotgun snap and galloped into the end zone untouched for the score, continuing the roll he has been on in the past year.
"I really am a quarterback," Nix said. "I told you guys it would happen and it did."
That was Louis Nix being Louis Nix; as he provided a refreshing spark to a ho-hum exhibition on a 38-degree April afternoon. He was Notre Dame's best defensive player on the nation's biggest stage this past Jan. 7 against Alabama, and he was the anchor of a defense that happened to feature the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
By playing even bigger than his out-sized personality -- a trait that turned his every word into a soundbite and made his video news series a YouTube sensation -- Nix faced a decision that would have changed the lives of everyone back inside his family's three-bedroom home.
Last spring Nix publicly expressed feelings of homesickness, as he fell into a rut and lost his spot on the first team to Kona Schwenke. But the film, television and theatre major thought back to senior night four years ago at Raines (Fla.) High School, when he was the only player who took the field without a loved one. His mom, Stephanie Wingfield had a shift at a hospital cafeteria that night and cried when she found out her son had taken the field alone. She begged him to stay in college, earn his degree and celebrate senior day with her.
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsLouis Nix capped off Notre Dame's spring game with a two-point conversion in the Blue-Gold Game.
The decision to stay ensures that the senior day moment will happen. The play that highlighted Saturday's scrimmage served as proof that he is on the right track in the classroom.
Nix's two-point conversion was the result of an academic wager he made with head coach Brian Kelly, who credited the conversion to offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and his new responsibilities as play-caller heading into the 2013 season.
"He surprised me, and so I paid up," Kelly said of Nix. "I said, 'What do you want?' I figured he would want something. He came up: 'I want to score a touchdown in the spring game.' As you know, we had a hard time scoring touchdowns in the spring game and I didn't think that was going to come to reality."
So Nix went up to quarterback Malik Zaire with 14:05 left in the contest, ordering the early-enrollee to get him to the promised land. Six plays and four minutes, 55 seconds later, C.J. Prosise was in the end zone with a 35-yard touchdown reception, allowing the blue-jerseyed Nix to step into the huddle with his white-jerseyed teammates. It set off a minor social media celebration of a FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN. (Or, in this case, a FAT GUY CONVERSION.)
Is this something Temple needs to scheme against come the teams' Aug. 31 opener?
"That's what all teams need to be scared of. Everybody needs to be scared of Irish Chocolate," Nix said.
"Everyone," he continued, staring at the reporter who had inquired, "including you."
The defense charged with stopping the play certainly seemed scared, though it adjusted enough to keep the new quarterback from beating them with his arm.
"I just made a few checks or whatever. You couldn't hear them. They were silent checks," Nix said. "I just told them where to line up, give me a nice pass-block. My O-line did a great job, that's why I was successful."
Or simply because he looked up, stared at nothing but daylight and entered a state of shock, with linebacker Kendall Moore getting the heck out of the way once Nix committed to running straight ahead.
"I saw fear in his eyes," Nix said of Moore.
George Atkinson III said afterward that Everett Golson should worry about losing his job. Fellow defenders expressed relief that they will never have to face Nix again.
But that might not be the case, not if Nix continues to ride this surge.
"It's a dream of mine to happen [in a game], hopefully it does -- hopefully Coach thinks I can handle the ball," he said.
"I'm 305 right now," the listed 347-pounder deadpanned. "If I gain a few pounds, maybe he'll just hand me the ball off."