No Need to Explain Rivalry to this Freshman

To say that linebacker Mike Nixon isn't your typical freshman would be an understatement. At 22 years old, he's already older than more than half of his teammates. He's also a former professional baseball player. And unlike other first-year players for the Sun Devils, this Phoenix native doesn't need any enlightenment as to the intense emotions that exist between Arizona State and Arizona.

"I definitely don't need any instruction (to the rivalry)," said Mike Nixon. "I've been coming to these games since I was born. My parents had season tickets to Arizona State since the 70's. I know the history of it, but never played in one, and I'm excited to do that and be part of it."

When asked if he's talking to the freshmen about the rivalry game, he replied: "A little bit here and there. We got enough guys here…we have former players coming in all week. And if they don't understand it by Saturday, they'll understand it when they come out of that tunnel."

Arizona was actually the first school to offer the linebacker a scholarship while he was in high school, but that certainly didn't excite him. "It was a nice offer but I really never had any intentions of going there," he admitted. "If I was gonna stay in-state, I always was gonna go here (to ASU). I made that very clear to them. They had Makovic coaching them back then, and their program was in a different place back then."

Nixon is tenth in total tackles on the team (28) and second in tackles for loss (6.5). That being said, how would he evaluate his season's performance, and did it live up to his expectations? "So far I've been happy with my decision all the way around," he remarked. "Each week I'm playing a little better, and last week I played I probably played one of best games this season. I knew it (the game of football after a four year absence from the game) was gonna come back in a week or a month, and I'm happy with the progress."

The former Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.) star notched seven total tackles against UCLA, reaching a new high for him. "They ran a lot of base stuff when we were out there, and we had a solid game plan," he stated. "Maybe I had something more in me, because we were playing UCLA. I'm just feeling comfortable out there, not afraid to make mistakes."

Nixon's progression hasn't been added to the list of folks around us. "He's really improved as the season went on, much like are whole defense," said Koetter. He can play all linebacker spots and is doing a nice job. I have very high expectations for Mike, because I knew him and recruited him back in the day. I think he has a huge upside. He's smart and a tough guy."

The linebacker does have experience on his side, and is happy to share his knowledge with other first-year players. "In the end, I was able to learn the defense a little quicker than they we were coming in the fall," stated Nixon. "They can come to me withy any questions and I have no problems asking Beau Manutai if I have questions. I may be a little older but I know my place."

Nixon did start practicing at safety, and is move to linebackers appears to be a long-term deal. "I'm definitely not gonna lose any weight right now, "said Nixon. "If anything I will gain a few more pounds. I hope I continue to improve. I'll come back in spring ball and hope to earn a spot. I've been playing a lot at SAM (strong side) because they have been moving Gerald (Munns), so maybe he can stay inside."

On this holiday, Nixon is more thankful for his family and health and only then to the Dodgers who released him from his pro-contract.

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