Notre Dames Nix larger-than-life on and off the field
Posted: 08/15/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Rachel Terlep
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After all, it’s hard to miss the 6-foot-4, 326-pound Notre Dame nose guard.
He isn’t a standout receiver or a five-star quarterback recruit. In fact nose guards hardly get a blink from casual fans.
But Nix complements his big physical appearance with an even bigger personality, which has helped him become — in the eyes of the fans — one of the most popular players on the team.
As of Tuesday, Nix had nearly 5,900 followers on Twitter and another few thousand friends on Facebook, where he interacts with fans across the country through Tweets, status updates and wall posts.
“People would love to interact with their favorite (celebrities),” he said. “I would like to interact with a favorite movie star and my favorite guys on TV. I’d love to talk to Shaq. A lot of people get a point of view of what my life is or how I am.”
While many Notre Dame players can be reluctant to open up to the throngs of reporters shoving microphones and recorders in their faces, Nix talks candidly about his summer accounting class and his favorite NBA team, the Miami Heat.
He said he is so accessible to fans because fans deserve accessibility. Those player-fan interactions are something he wishes he could have done with his heroes while growing up in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I like to talk to fans,” he said. “I was once a fan. I wish I could have talked to a lot of college athletes — the University of Miami was my favorite school at the time. I wish I could have talked to those guys on Facebook or social media and get a response. That would have satisfied me. Since I’m in that place, I like doing it for the fans, talk to them when I can or say, ‘What’s up?’ or ‘Thank you.’”
Nix’s popularity took off last spring as part of the much-hyped new faces of the Notre Dame defense. Soon after, he decided he needed a nickname.
“I said, ‘I need a name,’” Nix recalled. “All good players have a name, ‘The Fridge,’ ‘The Bus,’ all those guys. I wanna be something. So I said, ‘What’s a good name for me?’”
The fans responded, and Irish Chocolate was born.
“‘That’s the one; I like it,’” Nix remembered thinking.
Nix has since embraced the nickname. He changed his Twitter handle to @IrishChocolate9 and started a YouTube series called Chocolate News, which gives fans an inside look at a day in the life of the Notre Dame junior.
“It may be nothing more than a trip to the grocery story,” Nix said. “That’s not a big thing, but some people like that. I don’t mind doing it. It’s something I like to do.”
That grocery shopping video garnered more than 10,000 views on YouTube. Nix said he’d considered uploading video from the team’s trip to Diamond Lake in Cassopolis, Mich., last weekend as part of the fourth installment in the series.
Athletes take note: When it comes to interacting with fans, Nix is doing it right.
When he’s not Tweeting or uploading videos, Nix is locked in a two-man battle for starting nose guard with fellow junior Kona Schwenke. Though Nix has the experience advantage, coaches were impressed with Schwenke’s performance during spring camp and even named him captain of the defense for the spring Blue/Gold scrimmage.
“It’s a competition, but at the same time, it’s a friendship,” Nix said. “We’re brothers, and that’s what we stick to. Whether he’s in first, whether I’m in first. We push each other. We tell each other what we’re doing wrong. If he’s doing something wrong, I’ll let him know. If I’m doing something wrong, he better let me know. We know whoever is in, there’s no dropoff.”
Nix’s starting spot was contested early in the spring, when head coach Brian Kelly hinted that Nix wasn’t putting in the effort needed to maintain his top spot on the depth chart. Nix is long past that now.
“To be honest, I think we talk about that too much,” Nix said. “The spring was the spring. That was yesterday. It’s today now. I feel like I’m putting in more work and more effort, so I’m not worried about it.
“If (Kelly) told me I wasn’t giving consistency, that’s gone now. I haven’t heard anything about consistency. If I hear it, I’ll keep providing consistency, but I’m glad I’m not hearing it.”
Kelly said both nose guards are neck-and-neck for the starting spot, but both are expected to see significant playing time.
“First of all, Louis and Kona have to share playing time,” Kelly said after practice on Aug. 8. “I don’t know of a nose guard in college football that’s that big and can play all 70-something snaps. They’re really so close. We’re pleased with Louis. His consistency has been excellent. We’re really just pleased with what he’s doing.”
The team heads to Ireland in two weeks to take on Navy in the season opener.
Nix may have successfully defended his top spot on the depth chart, he may have not.
Either way, expect a full report on the adventures in Dublin from Chocolate News.