At first it seems impossible to capture the essence and impact of Louis Nix on the Notre Dame Football program and fan-base. The depth of his tenure in South Bend is legendary in a way that almost seems void of a quality comparison. Why is it that we love to cheer for our All-American nose guard in manner unlike any other current or former Irish player? What is it about Louis Nix III that touches ND fans in such an astoundingly positive way? Bring up his name in front of any Domer and their reaction tells the story – Notre Dame fans instinctively smile at the mention of our favorite nose guard. How incredibly rare is that?!? Nix elicits a genuine emotion of joy at the mere reference of his name. And it’s not a joy or smile found in Brady Quinn’s aerial assaults or the astounding leadership of Manti Te’o or the championship heroics of Tony Rice & Joe Montana. It’s just different … and maybe his legacy is best if we don’t understand why we adore him so much. When you look back on the last four years of the Louis Nix III Experience, it’s becomes clear that we’ve all been privilege to the very special career of a transcendent, once-in-a-generation player and personality.
*Editor’s Note: The first 2/3 of this article was written prior to hearing Louis Nix was out for the season. We’ll still smile when hearing his name, but Saturday afternoon that grin will accompany plenty of tears from too many to count.
The Louis Nix Experience In Three Parts – What a Wild Ride
Part I – It’s probably time to accept that Louis Nix won’t ever again be suiting up for a game in Notre Dame Stadium. How he even ended up wearing the Blue & Gold is a story you’ve heard before but will always be worth telling. Louis Nix committed to the University of Miami in 2009 and seemed destined to join a long line of Florida prep stars to stay in-state at one of their three Division I powers. Nix kept a door cracked for Charlie Weis, even when the Irish stumbled down the stretch of their schedule and finished 6-6 after four consecutive losses that would seal the embattled Weis’s fate as Head Coach. Weis was fired on November 30th and in what was one of the oddest recruiting stories in memory, maybe foretelling his future in South Bend, Louis Nix III made what was a silent commitment to Notre Dame public despite his choice of school not employing a head coach. Plenty of athletes at academic institutions, Notre Dame included, claim to have made their choice with post-graduate motives in mind. Nix can stake claim to having made his choice when nothing was certain regarding any aspect of the football program. Notre Dame and South Bend were for him and the football part would take care of itself. It was the beginning of a complicated road to stardom in Northern Indiana.
Halfway through Louis Nix’s freshman season in 2010, it seemed difficult to project him as the second coming of Bryant Young in an Irish uniform. He showed up on campus out of shape and ill-prepared for the challenges of college football. He couldn’t crack a mediocre 2nd & 3rd team Notre Dame defensive line and ultimately red-shirted during Brian Kelly’s first year at the helm. Knowing now how disruptive a player Louis Nix could be, one can’t help but wonder what 5-10 plays a game of a freshman Louis Nix during a 4 point loss to Michigan, a 3 point OT loss to Michigan State and the still stings 1 point loss to Tulsa might have provided. Instead Nix headed to the 2011 offseason as one of the biggest question marks on the team and a quick afterthought among fans following the signing of 5-Star defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt & Aaron Lynch.
While Louis Nix was prepping in 2011 for his first season of actually playing college football, he also dropped his first YouTube sensation – a peek into the hilarious, goofy, ridiculous, heart-warming character we were all about to start getting to know. What else is there to say – This is Louis Nix, up close and personal, terribly mouthing the words to Bruno Mars “Grenade” while lounging around in an Indiana Pacers jersey and chowing down on hearty chunks of banana:
It wouldn’t be the end of this media darling’s hits on YouTube. Just days before 2011 Fall Camp, Nix went back to the well and sang Rascal Flats “God Bless The Broken Road” while showcasing a box of Kashi GoLean Crunch. You couldn’t in a million years make this stuff up. He hadn’t made a tackle as an Irish player, but rooting for him was becoming a lot easier.
Things improved for Nix on the field as well in 2011. He stopped recording videos during the fall and started manhandling offensive linemen while sporting the #9 jersey in honor of Kyle Rudolph. He led all Irish defensive linemen in tackles with 45 while also tallying 4.5 Tackles for Loss. More importantly, Bob Diaco had found the ideal player to command double-teams and wreak havoc on the interior line, while keeping blockers off Manti Te’o – who would rack up 128 tackles playing behind a true 3-4 nose guard. It was really just the beginning for the man who’d dubbed himself “Irish Chocolate” and was about to take that moniker to a whole new level.
Part II – With the groundwork laid on and off the field in 2011, Louis Nix was primed for a breakout year in 2012. While much of the calendar would be filled with highlights, the Louis Nix III story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning what took place during 2012 spring ball. Irish fan’s projected wrecking crew of a defensive line saw Freshman All-American Aaron Lynch quit the team and transfer while at the same time, Nix’s classmate Kona Schwenke was beating out Irish Chocolate on the Nose Guard depth chart. Brian Kelly was low on praise for Nix during spring camp and the junior’s Twitter activity wasn’t exactly indicative of a happy camper. Looking back it was a blip on the career radar of Louis Nix, but maybe a clue to what Brian Kelly knew he had on his hands heading into his third season leading the program. Buttons needed to be pushed. It’d appear they worked.
June 11th, 2012 – A day that will live in infamy. Fans of Notre Dame and ridiculousness were blessed on this date with the debut of Chocolate News. The show’s run would be brief but unforgettable. Seeming to put the spring behind him, the debut episode featured Nix repeatedly mentioning the need to “get right” in reference to their shopping lists and multiple demands of freshman Sheldon Day to “put down the Honey Buns!!!”. While the rest of the College Football world was putting USC in the National Championship Game, we were getting fresh looks at life as an ND player with the perfect host. Nix’s final cut on the 5.5 episode series found him on the balcony of his hotel room in Ireland scanning the grounds, then pulling the camera to his face and uttering what we were all thinking:
“I’d pet a moose in Ireland cuz we’re in Ireland! We pet mooses around here!”
Here is where we could wax poetic on all that was in the 2012 regular season. Let’s make it simple – Louis Nix was the best defensive tackle in America. Period. He faced what were arguably the nation’s top two centers in Gabe Ikard and Barrett Jones and embarrassed them physically. Maybe you point to the Stanford goal-line stand as the paramount moment during last year, but this SoCal-raised writer will never forget Louis Nix exploding through the line on USC’s 3rd & Goal attempt from the half yard line to set up the play that would seal regular season perfection. From our own Irish Twins (artist formerly known as Knute School Fool) – the USC stand in full. If you feel like watching it 10 times consecutively, every person reading this will understand:
Part III – Parts Two & Three overlap a touch because this chapter really began when Nix made it official in mid December of 2012 that he’d be returning for his senior year. He was still a few weeks away from putting together one of few bright spots for the Irish in Miami and a few days from his NFL Draft Evaluation returning with a mid 1st Round Grade. Much like the decision he made 3 years prior, Nix took the more challenging, significantly more uncertain road that would end with a college degree instead of a massive payday. One that could pay for his mother’s much-needed knee replacement. They both were apparently on the same page: Louis Nix III had started something in South Bend that he was going to finish. Plus – he had a few more highlights to share.
Nix kicked off the 2013 Fighting Irish season by announcing he was going to wear jersey #1 because he wasn’t allowed to were double zeroes. This wasn’t going to be enough for his Spring Football buzz. During what has become a ballyhooed practice session, Nix stole the show yet again and did what he does best -made us smile. Trotting out late in the game, he lined up at quarterback and executed a perfect QB Draw for touchdown. When asked about what he was looking at before the play he proclaimed, “I was making checks … They were, um, silent checks.” Damn, he’ll be missed:
It’s safe to say that 2013 hasn’t gone quite as Louis Nix had planned. He’s now claiming that he possibly injured the knee in the Alabama game where he played so valiantly. He had surgery Thursday that signals the end of his season and likely his collegiate career. His teammates and fans robbed of his play in 5 of 13 games this year when all is said and done. But is his third act at Notre Dame a “tragedy”? By no means.
What Louis Nix has accomplished on campus deserves nothing short of a celebration. He chose the path less traveled and it has made all the difference. In a few weeks he’ll be the first college graduate from his family. He overcame homesickness, weight struggles, family heartbreak, and much more than we’ll ever know to emerge as a loved program icon who spearheaded one of the greatest Irish defenses in history while giving a fan-base that often doesn’t deserve it a reason to smile.
Thank you Louis Nix.
What’s next for LNIII? I’d like to imagine that if we posed that question to him he’d respond with something like, “I guess I’ll get drafted and yada, yada, yada…”