Nix adjusts to spotlight, challenges

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Yes, it had been more than a month since Louis Nix met with the media. No, the usually larger-than-life personality assured all, it was nothing personal.

"I miss you guys," Nix said Wednesday.

What he might be missing even more is the relative anonymity -- at least outside of this campus -- that came with being the Irish's starting nose guard. Now, the preseason All-America hype has created outsize expectations for the man Notre Dame lists at 357 pounds.

"I really don't like it, because for some reason, people say I'm an All-American or whatever, they expect me to, like, make 10 tackles, and I don't think they really watched me," Nix said. "Last year I barely made a tackle a game. I don't think people know what I actually do. I get frustrated with that, because people expect me to make like Manti [Te'o] tackles and interceptions, and that's not my job.

"But it's whatever. I go out there and just do my job, which is take up some double-teams and make plays when I have to."

Nix has five total tackles and one tackle for loss so far. Double-teams, meanwhile, have come fast and heavy through two games, and he has had little choice but to get used to them.

Against a Temple offense that mostly dinked-and-dunked around the Irish's defensive line, Nix had one tackle and committed three penalties, taking to Twitter in the aftermath to voice the difficulties of "double-team life." At Michigan a week later, Nix was, in Brian Kelly's words, "a beast," who "played as well as he's played for us."

Perhaps more importantly, the head coach has seen a rapid maturity growth in one of his team's most important players.

"Last year, the year before, you come to the sideline and it was hard sometimes to communicate with him, because he got frustrated," Kelly said. "Now he comes to the sideline and you can communicate with him. He can give you the information that you need to get relative to what's going on out there. It's been really impressive, his maturity. He's doing his job, and he's really wanting to focus on that this year.

"Obviously he has not spoken to the media a lot, because he's wanted to focus on being the best football player. He thought he got a little, you know, too much into the social media and all that stuff and really wanted to focus on football."

Nix skipped the team's official media day last month. His Twitter persona, the always-entertaining Irish Chocolate, has been quieter than usual these past three weeks.

He said he needed some time alone, to deal with family issues and get his schoolwork in order. He is on-track to graduate this December, and he is almost assured of hearing his name called early in April's NFL Draft.

Until then, he is hoping his play does most of the talking, however difficult that might be for an outgoing interior lineman.

"People consider me an All-American," Nix said, "and I've got to practice and play like one."