SOUTH BEND | During Notre Dame’s annual awards show last Friday, nose guard Louis Nix, along with Stephon Tuitt, was honored with the Moose Krause Defensive Lineman of the Year Award.
The 6-foot-3, 326-pound Nix showed his soft side by thanking his mother, then quickly shifted into playful mode by adding she had a beautiful son, and that he was in the building that night.
Afterwards, while clutching his award, Nix was still a smiling mixture of pride and glee.
“I really never got an award in college yet, so this is the start,” said Nix, glasses, shirt and tie replacing his gold helmet and No. 9 jersey for the evening. “Next year I’m trying to be like Manti and get like seven or eight of these awards.
"This is the start.”
Nix could kick-start a trophy-heavy 2013 season with a strong cap to his 2012 campaign. That opportunity arrives Jan. 7 when the top-ranked and 12-0 Irish play No. 2 Alabama in the BCS Championship game.
“We know what’s ahead of us and we’re ready to play ’Bama,” Nix said. “That’s what’s on the brain.”
One matchup many fans are looking toward is the ND defensive line vs. the Alabama offensive line.
ND was ranked fourth nationally during the regular season by allowing 92.4 rushing yards per game. Alabama averaged 224.6 rushing yards per outing, which ranked 20th in the country.
Crimson Tide running backs Eddie Lacy (1,182 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (1,000 yards) earn a lot of the attention, but it’s the road-graders up front who make it happen. The leader of that group is center Barrett Jones, and he possesses an impressive résumé.
The 6-5, 302-pound Jones won the Rimington Trophy this season as the nation’s top center. He won the 2011 Outland as the nation’s best interior lineman. He’s started at three different positions — guard, tackle and center.
And when Alabama and ND clash next month, it’ll be the third time Jones starts in a national title game.
And standing right across from him will be Nix.
“I’ve heard about him. He got a couple awards. He’s played three positions on the O-line. He’s an All-American,” Nix said. “I’m happy he’s the No. 1 center in the country. That gives me an opportunity to better myself and see where I fit at in the country with the other nose tackles that went up against him.
“He’s just a smart center. He knows how to play the game, obviously, because he’s played three positions on the O-line. It takes a real good guy to play all three positions. He’s a real smart guy, real athletic. He’s very strong at the point of attack. I just have to be ready for him.”
Nix too seemed ready for the inevitable questions about the SEC’s recent run of dominance. Teams from that conference have won the last six national titles, and Nix was asked if that earns Alabama the right to be favored.
“The SEC didn’t win it. The certain teams in the game won it,” Nix pointed out. “I don’t care about the conference thing. The teams that won it the last six years so happened to be in the SEC, and those guys earned the title.
"I’m happy I’m facing one of those teams that won it twice already. I can’t wait to play them, can’t wait until Jan. 7.”