Kick-off to the 2013 season is just over 24 hours away and we have finally reached the top spot in our countdown of the Top 25 Notre Dame football players for 2013. Our #1 ranked player just so happens to be #1 in programs and #1 in the hearts of Notre Dame fans around the world. Ladies and gentlemen, our #1 ranked player for Notre Dame in 2013 is none other than Irish Chocolate himself, Louis Nix.
The story of Louis Nix coming to Notre Dame will be told for years. Days after the firing of Charlie Weis and days before the hiring of Brian Kelly, Louis Nix surprised many around the college football recruiting world by committing to Notre Dame while the Irish were without a head coach.
Even without a head coach Nix knew that Notre Dame was where he wanted to be and while there have been some trials and tribulations for Nix throughout his time, at the end of his career, it has been a match made in heaven.
Notre Dame has been starving for elite defensive linemen for years and Nix, along with our #2 ranked player Stephon Tuitt, has delivered in a big way. In fact, the only thing bigger than Nix’s play over the last two years has been the hulking nose tackle’s personality. Whether it has been singing Gangnum Style before the BCS Championship or keeping fans entertained on Twitter, Nix has delivered on and off the field more so than anyone could have hoped for when he took a flier on a team in search of not just a head coach, but an identity three years ago.
Nix has been instrumental in the resurrection of Notre Dame football under Brian Kelly not just because he has been the perfect fit at nose tackle in Bob Diaco’s defense, but also because he has helped give this team character. He’s been a beast on the field and a giant teddy bear that is impossible not love and root for off the field.
By the way, in case you haven’t picked up on yet, we aren’t following the same format we used fr our other 24 players for Big Lou. There is no reason he could be ranked lower and there is no way he could be ranked higher since he is already occupying the top spot.
One of Brian Kelly’s best recruiting jobs in his tenure at Notre Dame was getting Nix to return for his senior season in 2013. Despite two years of eligibility, Nix had the opportunity to leave for the NFL this past off-season as a projected high draft pick. Instead of leaving early, however, Nix returned to Notre Dame for his senior season to continue his education and continue the job he started back in December 2009 to return Notre Dame football back to the top of the college football world.
As Nix enters his senior season, the sky is really the limit. He is on everyone’s All-American list, every defensive award watch list he is eligible for, and he is consensus top 10 projected draft by every NFL Draft prognosticator.
Nix was not named a captain in 2013, but that isn’t surprising as that’s not his style. Nix is a lead by example type player but isn’t a “rah rah” rally the troops type of player. He just goes out and dominates offensive linemen as the cog in the middle of a Notre Dame defense that allows the other 10 players around him to be much more effective.
Notre Dame has not had a defensive linemen like Nix on the field in a long, long time. Bryant Young is the last interior defensive lineman that comes to mind that had the same type of impact on the field for Notre Dame. Off the field, Notre Dame may not have ever had a character quite like Nix before.
Last year we said many times that Notre Dame fans should enjoy watching Manti Te’o because it would be a long time before the Irish had another middle linebacker like the Hawaiian Hitman again and the same can be said for Nix this year. Notre Dame may have nose tackles in the future who have similar impacts on the field, but it is highly unlikely we’ll see a player quite like Nix again for a long, long time, if ever.
Nix will fill up his stat sheet this year and will then almost certainly head to the NFL in April despite the pipe dreams of Notre Dame fans who are hoping he returns for a 5th year. The lasting impact that Nix has made on this team and this program, however, will be felt long after he is chasing down quarterbacks on the NFL stage.
Enjoy big old #1 in the middle of defense this year. We are all going to miss him when he is gone. In the meantime, hopefully we get to see him line up behind center again one more time – perhaps a Tommy Zbikowski style QB cameo on senior day?
And with that, we’ve reached the end of our countdown on time. It’s going to be fun (maybe embarrassing) to look back at this list at the end of the year since there are already a lot of changes we would make based on the results of fall camp. Perhaps we’ll run this list in July next year…