SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix wasnt supposed to play against Pittsburgh last week.
The 6-foot-3, 326-pound junior couldnt be located until about 30 minutes before last weeks Tuesday practice, and when he was found, it was clear he had come down with the flu that had swept through the team for two weeks. Nix was laid up in the universitys infirmary for two days with a humidifier in the room and endured 4 a.m. wake-up calls to be medicated.
On game day, Nix was in full uniform, but after going through warm-ups, it was decided that he would be used in an emergency situation only.
I was at a point where I didnt even have a smile on my face. I wasnt as jolly as I am. I was just down, fatigued, not talking, Nix said. Thats not me. I like to play around, joke. If you dont see that out of me, something is wrong.
Nix was ready to be a spectator against the Panthers as Kona Schwenke and Tony Springmann, a Bishop Dwenger graduate, held down the fort at nose guard. But Schwenke suffered a shoulder injury and Nix was needed, even though he barely practiced in the days leading up to the game.
Its like going into a gunfight with a pair of scissors, Nix said. Youre not prepared. I wasnt prepared, but I did my best.
Nix rotated out of the lineup more frequently then usual against Pitt, getting a break after three plays instead of five.
But as the game moved into a third overtime, he ended up playing about the same amount of reps as he usually does and finished with four tackles and teamed with defensive end Stephon Tuitt for a sack in the final overtime as the No. 4 Irish (9-0) came away with a 29-26 victory.
It took a toll on me as the game was going on, Nix said. I was over it after awhile. Everything left my head. I just wanted to win the game.
Nixs ability to play through the flu and perform well was not a surprise to his teammates.
Louis has a lot of heart, and he loves this team, and he loves to win, linebacker Manti Teo said. There is no stopping him from being on the field.
Nix said he is over the flu and ready for tonights game at Boston College (2-7). He could be needed more than usual as Schwenke is traveling with the team but is questionable for the game, according to coach Brian Kelly.
But the Irish know when they need Nix, he will perform, healthy or not. And Nixs performance against Pitt just reaffirmed that belief.
He played really gutsy, Kelly said. It was just a gutsy performance from a kid that was sick all week.