In 2012 Notre Dame's defensive line was the engine that propelled the Irish, who were unranked in the preseason, into the BCS National Championship Game. With the departure of the iconic Manti Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore, the D line will need a new emotional leader this fall in order to maintain the momentum of last season.
Enter Louis Nix III.
With explosive speed, active hands and the feet of a flamenco dancer, the 6'3", 340-pound Nix is a force of nature. Combine that with his high football IQ and knack for getting behind the line to make things happen and you have one world-class defender who is effective in stopping the run and keeping the other linemen clean to make the tackle.
Beyond the obvious skills Nix brings to the field, the rising senior will provide much-needed leadership in the wake of Te'o's departure. Nix—or "Irish Chocolate," as he is fondly called—has been the de facto source for anecdotal insider information about the team on his YouTube channel, "Chocolate News," where he covers a diverse array of topics from grocery shopping to interviews with Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
Nix, though an all-around beast on the field, is a gentle giant with a good sense of humor off the gridiron.
According to Rick Reilly of ESPN.com, an overzealous Sooner fan in Norman, Oklahoma, kept yelling from the stands: "Nix! You're fat! Fat!" Nix told Reilly: "The worst part was when I checked him out, he was fat. That hurt me. Man, we big guys gotta stick together."
Though many considered the Jacksonville, Florida, native to be ready for the NFL after his seminal 2012 season with the Irish, Nix opted to remain at Notre Dame to fulfill his mother's dream of seeing her child graduate college. With 11 younger siblings and half-siblings, the decision to leave certainly would have been financially advantageous. But Nix is content to stick around for another year on the advice of his mother, telling Andy Staples of SI.com:
She knows I have this big opportunity. She knows this would help us all out. But at the same time, I believe she knows what's best for me. At the end of the day, what if football doesn't work out? She wants me to fall back on something.
So why will he be the biggest impact player on the D line this fall? Because of his seniority, talent and leadership skills. Look for this affable giant to be front and center—literally and figuratively—this fall.