SOUTH BEND – Louis Nix is days away from his hard work over the last two years paying off.
When Notre Dame plays South Florida in the season opener at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium, Nix will finally get a chance to play after sitting out last season.
Im going to be revved up, Nix said. Im going to come out of that tunnel excited. Then when I hit the field, Im going to stay focused. My mind is on my play and the person in front of me. Im not going to worry about all the people shouting. Im just going to worry about that man in front of me.
Nix had to worry about the man he saw in the mirror when he first arrived at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3 Jacksonville, Fla., native weighed 368 pounds when he reported last season. Coach Brian Kelly, the coaching staff and the players all made it clear to Nix that he had to lose weight to play.
It was a group effort from everybody, from coach Kelly to coach Diaco to (receivers coach) Tony Alford to myself and a lot of the upperclassmen, defensive line coach Mike Elston said of getting Nix to lose weight. (You) just give it to him straight, tell him what he is lacking, what your expectations are and hope he sees it.
By all accounts, Nix saw and corrected what kept him from playing. The sophomore dropped to 326 pounds and earned the No. 2 role behind senior Sean Cwynar.
He will be somebody that when you turn on the film, youll recognize Louis Nix, Kelly said. Certainly there are some limitations there. Hes not going to be a dynamic pass rusher for us right now. Certainly he can get there, and again, how long can he stay on the field? But he has a very good chance to be an impactful player for us.
Cwynar has been a big help in getting Nix ready to contribute this season, even though the two are competing for playing time.
Coming in, its been a family thing. I wasnt too worried about it, Nix said of getting help from Cwynar. We are just helping each other get better. If he goes and takes a rep before me, he will ask me, Did I do good? I will let him honestly, No, you need to work on this. And the same thing for me. It was a big help. We werent thinking about a starting job. We were just trying to make each other better.
Nix is physically ready to play for the Irish, and he is just trying to perfect the mental aspect of the game.
One thing he has done mentally is think about what he wants his first play to be, whether he remembers it himself or not. But if he does remember his first play, it could be a good one.
If I dont remember my first play, I hope its something good and somebody remembers it, Nix said. If I do remember my first play, I hope its a touchdown.