Iowa football: Daviyon Nixon named Big Ten's defensive player of the year

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central
Daviyon Nixon's play in the trenches allowed Iowa's linebackers to make a ton of defensive plays. Here, he celebrates the Nebraska win.

Daviyon Nixon went from backup defensive tackle to Big Ten Conference defensive player of the year in 12 months.

The Hawkeyes’ redshirt junior was a dominant force this season, tallying a Big Ten-high 13½ tackles for loss. Nixon’s strength and speed in a 305-pound frame were also apparent in his 71-yard interception-return touchdown to seal Iowa’s 41-21 win at Penn State.

So it was probably no surprise that media and coaches have made Nixon the Nagurski-Woodson defensive player of the year and the Smith-Brown defensive lineman of the year. The honors were announced Wednesday.

He is only the second defensive player of the year in the Kirk Ferentz era, joining linebacker Josey Jewell in 2017. Iowa has only had one previous Big Ten D-lineman of the year in Ferentz's 22 years, Mitch King in 2008.

Nixon was, as you might imagine, also named to the all-Big Ten first team by media and coaches. He was joined by teammate Chauncey Golston. They share the Big Ten lead with 5½ sacks apiece for an Iowa defense that ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (16.0 ppg) and 12th in total yardage allowed (313.8 ypg).

Nixon played behind defensive tackles Brady Reiff and Cedrick Lattimore for Iowa in 2019. Now, he is one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America. That award’s winner will be announced Dec. 23.

Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg (four fumble recoveries) and safety Jack Koerner (three interceptions) were named to the Big Ten's second team by the league's media. VanValkenburg was a second-team coaches choice, too, and Koerner and linebacker Nick Niemann (team-high 77 tackles) made the third team.

Iowa (6-2, No. 16 College Football Playoff ranking) now has five first-team all-Big Ten honorees, with the specialists coming Thursday. On Tuesday, running back Tyler Goodson and offensive linemen Alaric Jackson and Tyler Linderbaum were named to the all-Big Ten first team.