Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker says Daviyon Nixon is bringing "juice" to his team. He has more thoughts on his defensive line. LIsten: Mark Emmert, firstname.lastname@example.org
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Heavy hands. Long arms. Fast feet.
Daviyon Nixon has all of the physical traits you’d want in a defensive tackle. It’s why Iowa Hawkeyes fans have been eager to see him suit up for a game through two drama-filled years.
The three-star recruit from Kenosha, Wisconsin, spent one season at Iowa Western Community College, where Alabama came calling and fans started fretting. Nixon stayed true to his Iowa commitment.
He spent last year at Iowa getting his academic work in order and then created more hand-wringing for the fan base by entering his name in the transfer portal. Again, Nixon decided to remain a Hawkeye.
His time is finally here. Nixon is a second-stringer heading into No. 19 Iowa’s season-opener vs. Miami of Ohio at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I feel like I can just bring as much domination to the front as possible,” Nixon said during Iowa’s media day interviews Aug. 9.
“He can be as disruptive as disruptive can be,” Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said of the 305-pound sophomore.
The hype is behind him. The hope lies ahead.
Size, speed, strength and the best conditioning of his life
Nixon has heard an oddly appropriate compliment his whole life.
“I am pretty heavy-handed,” Nixon said, echoing an observation from Bell.
It’s not what you think.
“Basically, what that means is you’ve got to be physical with a guy. You’ve got to actually put your hands on him and show him that you’re there,” Nixon clarified.
Nixon is such a dominant presence that opposing teams often threw two blockers at him. That was the case at Iowa Western, where Nixon recorded 44 tackles and five sacks in helping the Reivers to an 11-1 season. He anchored the interior of the line.
“His size, athleticism, his strength as a freshman were off the charts. Just physically, he really had it,” said Scott Strohmeier, who coached Nixon that season.
Nixon said his wingspan was 7-foot-2 when he last checked in high school. He was a basketball star then as well, surprisingly graceful in the open court. He stands 6-3.
At media day, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz proclaimed Nixon as being in the best shape of his life. Nixon concurred, although he never felt he let himself get too far out of shape in his year away from competition.
“Being this big and being able to carry it and move it kind of fast, I think that’s pretty good,” Nixon said.
Nixon puts that size, speed and strength to use primarily to stop opposing running backs. It’s a nose-guard mentality. He is not a converted defensive end, as Iowa used last year with seniors Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks as the starting tackles.
Iowa allowed only 109.5 rushing yards per game in a 9-4 season.
Nixon would enjoy seeing that figure dip into the double-digits.
“I love stopping the run. That is the first job,” he said. “A lot of people like getting after the quarterback, but you can’t do that until you stop the run.”
Energy, enthusiasm and a place that feels like home
Nixon is naturally outgoing. It’s the first thing he mentioned when asked to describe himself.
“My biggest asset would have to be my energy and enthusiasm,” he said.
Strohmeier saw that, too.
“He’s always happy, smiling. He’s the kind of guy that was the center of attention because of his personality,” Strohmeier recalled.
Nixon said he had no trouble adjusting socially to life in Iowa City.
“I’m a nice guy so I make a lot of friends very quickly,” he said.
So why did he flirt with a transfer last winter?
Nixon said he just wanted to weigh his options, to talk thing over with his family.
“After talking to all the coaches and a lot of the players and feeling the ‘home’-ness of this place, I knew that this was the best place for me,” he said.
Bell said he was never concerned about losing one of his most talented defensive linemen.
“There was no problem with that. We had that under control here,” Bell said. “The kid wanted to be here. It was just a matter of if he was going to stay here, and he did.”
Nixon credited teammates like Amani Jones, Alaric Jackson and Cedrick Lattimore with helping him see the light.
“They just made it so that every day you’re going to come out and you’re going to feel welcome no matter what. So that’s what made it a home,” Nixon said.
Nixon said he was unaware of how much buzz there has been about him among Hawkeye fans. He is a backup to senior starters Lattimore and Brady Reiff, but will see plenty of action. Iowa likes to rotate eight defensive linemen to keep them all fresh. Nixon is the heaviest of the bunch.
Nixon has been anticipating his first game at Kinnick for a long time as well. He is eager to experience the swarm. He joked that he’ll be able to hear his father Rodney’s voice even if he’s “in the nose-bleed seats.”
“When I get out there, it’s going to be a special feeling,” Nixon said. “I’m very eager to get out there for the first game and just play my heart out for all the fans.”
At long last.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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