This past season, Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix suffered a torn meniscus, had surgery in November and missed five games.
At the NFL Combine, the media was predictably interested in his recovery as Nix sits on the doorstep of a career in professional football. "How's your knee?" a reporter asked.
"It’s fantastic," responded Nix. "How’s your knee?”
That's Louis Nix in a nutshell, a football player with an engaging personality and someone that doesn't just think he's funny—he's sincerely and legitimately funny. A future in comedy probably wouldn't be out of the question if it weren't for the lure and potential of millions of dollars in professional athletics.
Wherever he's drafted, Nix will instantly become a fan favorite and a must-follow on Twitter for his many quips and sense of humor.
Ultimately, however, the 6' 1" and 331-pound behemoth will be judged by his on-field performance and not his comedic value.
When the Green Bay Packers made only a one-year contract offer to B.J. Raji in the offseason, they failed to make a long-term commitment to another plus-sized defensive lineman, leaving the future of the nose tackle posiition in doubt.
If the Packers have reservations about Raji or simply want light a fire under him, they might consider Nix with the 21st overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and did have a formal meeting with him at the Combine.
At his best, Nix was a force on the 2012 Fighting Irish national championship runner-up team, making 50 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, two sacks, five passes defensed and a forced fumble. Along with players Manti Te'o and Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame had one of the best defenses in the country.
Despite the sensational 2012 campaign, one problem in projecting Nix at the next level is he only has a single season of elite-level production. Part of it can be chalked up to injury, but Nix has never shown to be a big-time pass rush threat. His weight has also fluctuated, perhaps at times getting too big for his own good.
"Some teams and general managers really like him," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. "He's a prototypical nose tackle, big kid. He's got good short area quickness for a 330-pound guy, but he had the knee last year. He flashed but didn't play at a high level all the time. He's got to be a little bit lighter; he's got to play at 330."
In three seasons at Notre Dame, Nix accumulated only 2.5 sacks before declaring the Draft following his junior year. As someone of comparable size, Raji had 12 sacks in three seasons at Boston College.
The limited big-play ability might put a ceiling on Nix's value, at least as a potential first round draft choice. Nix might turn out to be a great run-stuffing nose tackle that can hold his ground against the rush, but first-round talents tend to be the types that make sacks and force turnovers.
It's a risk/reward scenario for NFL teams as they consider where to take Nix. Should he be able to reprise his 2012 campaign, most teams probably wouldn't mind investing a first round selection into the Notre Dame product.
But if Nix has more injury-plauged seasons like he did in 2013 when he made 27 tackles, just two for a loss and zero sacks, observers would question his worth as a first-round pick, not unlike Raji this past year.
As far as the weight issue goes, Nix said teams like to see the smaller, 331-pound version of himself, and he plans on keeping it that way.
Nix bemoans the Five Guys burgers and Cajun fries he's had to cut from his diet but admits he's even started to take a liking to salads.
“No dressing," said Nix. "I eat it like chips. I just pick it up."
Ask him if feels any different at a lighter weight, and you'll get another typical Nix response.
“Yeah man, my stomach doesn’t stick out as much," said Nix. "That’s kind of nice. I like that part. My thighs got a little smaller. I just feel sexier, man.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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