One of a Kind

Senior nose guard Louis Nix will be greeted by his mother at midfield prior to Saturday's matchup against BYU. Because of her hard work and his, it's been a long time coming.

For a college student putting in extra work, both on evenings and the occasional weekend toward his degree, Louis Nix appears in no hurry to conclude his time at Notre Dame.

A 19-credit course load this fall should provide Nix his diploma a semester ahead of his classmates. Thereafter he has two immediate choices: NFL riches -- or a year-long "party" that includes more time with his extended family in South Bend.

"It's a thing to think about," said Nix of a potential fifth season of college football in 2014. "If you guys had an opportunity, would you come back to Notre Dame? You'd come back, right? Who wouldn't want to be in college another year and just sit around and party?"

(Off the top of my head, nearly every college graduate when faced with the alternative of several million dollars in his or her field of choice.)

"Seven figures? Aww, that's nothin'," Nix added. "It's up in the air right now. I don't know the future and I don't think you guys do either. Just something to keep thinking about. I love this place. Who wouldn't want to come back for a fifth year at Notre Dame?"

With bemused faces populating his audience per usual, Nix noted, "I'm not messing with you. Half y'all thought I was leaving last year...We have a lot of good guys coming back. Potentially have Everett (Golson) coming back. It's a lot to think about. I don't really know yet."

Ahead of Schedule

Nix does know that when his football career ends, he'll have a degree in a field of great interest and well-suited to him.

"My major is FTT: Film, Television and Theater," Nix said. "Focus is on TV. We do a little media editing, video, broadcasting, in front of the camera, behind it."

That forthcoming degree will be celebrated, along with his collegiate football career to date, on Notre Dame's annual Senior Day, Saturday afternoon prior to the matchup with (7-3) Brigham Young. Regardless of pending collegiate football eligibility, Irish football seniors are announced individually as they run out of the north tunnel. Most meet family members near midfield as part of the ceremony.

For Nix, the latter is a long time coming. His mother, Stephanie Ancrum, missed a similar ceremony when he played his final high school game as a member of the Raines Vikings (Jacksonville, Fla.) in 2009.

"She just had to work all the time. I couldn't afford to let her take off," said Nix of the pair's missed opportunity four Autumns prior. "She couldn't afford to take off herself. She cried when it happened. She was kind of mad at me. She really wanted to be there. I was the only person, I walked on the field by myself. People were like ‘where's his parents?' She didn't like stuff like that. So, this will give her the opportunity to come up and do that for once."

Nix's father, Louis Sr., will make the trip as well. The attendance of a collection of Nix's siblings is pending flight costs and logistics.

"I think it'll be great. I hope it doesn't snow," he said of his mother's visit. "It looks good on TV but it's actually bad. I don't like snow. I can't wait for her to come up. My dad will be up for his first ever game. His first time out of Jacksonville. I think that'll be great and hopefully some other members of my family will come up."

Asked if he'd inform his mother ahead of time in the event of potential snowfall, Nix offered, "I probably won't tell my mom about it. Being from Florida you see Home Alone and stuff. You see the snow falling. It looks magical, you know? I got here, my first time picking up a snowball it was like, 'Ohhh…it's freezing. I threw it down.

"I think she'd be happy to see it, but she wouldn't enjoy the snow."

To hear Nix discuss his mother, she'll doubtless be thrilled with the opportunity regardless of South Bend's weather du jour.

"She took care of me and my brothers and my little sister even though she's the only one that worked in the house, besides one of my brothers at the time," said Nix last December of his childhood. "She instilled a lot of hard work in me because she was the only parent in the house at the time. I still communicated with my dad. He was still cool, he helped support me, but just having my mom around fighting to keep us eating and stuff, that was a big thing."

Obstacles Abound

Nix to Notre Dame was hardly an ideal match.

Raines high school hadn't previously sent a graduate to the University, and considering Nix committed to the Irish when the program didn't have a head football coach, it seems in retrospect more negatives than positives existed for a college choice to the north.

His first season was spent toiling on the scout team, losing weight and learning a proper football stance. Crucial moments of his first season in South Bend were spent alone, his teammates celebrating elsewhere without him.

"I had to sit back in the dorms during Thanksgiving (2010) by myself, nobody on campus while we played USC in Cali -- so that sucked," he offered. "I didn't even get to go to Yankee Stadium."

Over the next three seasons, Nix ensured his inclusion on the traveling squad. He likewise immersed himself in Notre Dame's campus culture and considers himself better for it.

"Culture shock for me," said Nix of his immediate impression in the summer of 2010. "I don't get a lot of different people (at Raines). You see the same things. It's kind of a hard life from where I come from.

"(At Notre Dame) You see these different people from different places, and it's like, 'Oh, alright.' I started to adjust to it. Made new friends, met new people, went new places. I just enjoyed it. If I would have came in the winter time I probably wouldn't' of liked it. I'm glad I came in the fall.

"I had a lot in my life to deal with. Growing up my brother got killed. I had cousins die in car accidents. I had classmates get shot and killed. I've been through a lot. I don't let that hold me back. I just keep pushing forward and make life happy. I like to make people smile and smile myself."

Self-dubbed and aptly referred to by others since as Irish Chocolate, Nix is forever grateful to those that gave him a chance, both at Notre Dame and prior to his arrival.

"Just everything around here that helped me get to where I am," he said. "I had my brothers (teammates) stick with me, my coaches stick with me. Even the Notre Dame community. The teachers, they didn't make work easier for me but they helped me adjust. They showed me ways to improve myself, to write a better paper. Better study habits. You have the writing center to help you with stuff like that. I think that helped build a foundation for where I am now. I'm making it, so I'm happy."

Often tenuous, that foundation nonetheless began in his home town.

"People tried to prevent me from doing stupid stuff. I was around a lot of stuff and I wanted to go out and do that type of stuff," Nix admitted of his formative years. "That's what you're used to, that's what you're around. But I always had people around me that tried to help me do better. To tell me 'you have an opportunity' and I'm lucky enough to have those type of people in my life.

"I had a lot of cousins, my brother. My aunt and aunties. They kept me in line. Even some of my friends you wouldn't think of as good, stand-up guys because of some of the things they've done, they've always pushed me to do better and I thank them for it now."

They apparently recognized a unique quality in one of their own.

"My personality has always had Irish Chocolate in me," Nix continued. "It just took me to get here to bring it out. I've always been different. I think they saw that and that I had an opportunity to go out and do something special with myself, because a lot of people from my area don't. They just wanted me to be one of those guys to make it out."

Nix made it to the top of the college football world in 2012. He'll make it as a Notre Dame graduate in 2013 and as a first-round NFL draft pick shortly thereafter.

He made it to become what he considers a Notre Dame man.

"To me it means being an upstanding guy. Going through life, being what I've been through, I know people make mistakes and do things that make you think they're not upstanding," said Nix. Sometimes you get a chance to change that. I wasn't this wholesome guy you see right now my whole life.

"When I got to Notre Dame that all changed. I met people. I got along with people, and that's what I want to do. I just want to be a friendly, cool guy. When you go out and be yourself, you can be a role model for kids, put a smile on somebody's face. Give them a hug or a high five or something. I think that's being a Notre Dame man.

"I just want everybody to say he was a nice guy," he added of his legacy. "I want to be remembered as a nice guy."

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