Louis Nix could use a second locker just for his personality, which is as big as the junior nose guard’s 6-foot-3, 326-pound frame. But for the amiable Nix, one of the most beloved members of the Notre Dame football team, there’s ample room in the spotlight for classmate Kona Schwenke.
Louis Nix interacts with participants at the Football 101 event in June
The two are expected to split time in the middle this season, keeping both ornery behemoths fresh. There has been no protest made by Nix, who registered 45 tackles (4.5 for loss) in 2011.
“That dynamic is awesome,” Nix said. “Whether he’s starting, I’m starting … whoever is going in, we know there’s not going to be a dropoff. That’s nothing we worry about.
“That’s my man. Even though Florida football is better than Hawaii football, that’s still my man. It’s a competition, but at the same time, it’s a friendship. We know we’re brothers and that’s what we stick to. We constantly push each other and we tell each other what we’re doing wrong.”
Folks outside the program believed something was wrong with Nix during the spring, when he released cryptic Tweets that seemed to indicate his unhappiness in South Bend. It turned out to be a false alarm, undoubtedly overblown by the fact that game-changing sophomore defensive end, Aaron Lynch, also a native of Florida, had recently left the program because of homesickness.
The spring was also a stretch of time when Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly was publicly critical of Nix, whom Kelly said wasn’t providing the kind of consistency expected in practice.
“To be honest, I think we talk about that too much,” said Nix, who started 11 games and appeared in all 13 last year in his first season of action. “The spring was spring. That was yesterday. It’s today now. I feel like I’m putting in more work and more effort, so I’m not worried about it. He told me I wasn’t giving consistency — that’s gone now. Louis Nix, he’s improving and giving his all now.”
The improvement of Schwenke (6-4, 290), who has appeared in just eight games as a reserve defensive end over the last two years, bodes well for an already potent defensive line. Schwenke was seen with a cast on his right arm on Monday, however. No one from the program has commented on his status yet, though it doesn’t appear to be too serious.
Nix doesn’t see any drawbacks with sharing time.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s just to learn from each other. Me and him know we’re splitting reps. We don’t care who goes in. Both of us can’t be out there, but if we could, coach would love it. We’re working our way up to getting like that — playing the whole game — both of us.”
For fans of Nix, who also goes by “Irish Chocolate,” stay tuned for more episodes of his entertaining video diary, “Chocolate News.” He said a recent accounting class took up most of his time and that he wasn’t able to film as often as he had hoped.
Connecting with fans is a very big deal to Nix.
“I was once a fan and wish I could have talked to a lot of college athletes,” he said. “The University of Miami was my favorite school at the time. I wish I could have talked to those guys on Facebook or social media and gotten a response. That would have satisfied me. Since I’m in that place, I like to do it for the fans. I like to talk to them whenever I can, chat, or say ‘what’s up’ and ‘thank you’ or whatever.”
In fact, it was the fans that concocted the moniker “Irish Chocolate.”
“I said, ‘I need a name. All good players have a name — The Fridge … The Bus,’” he said about interaction on Facebook. “Irish Chocolate is what I went with. A lot of people suggested it and I said, ‘that’s the one; I like that one.’”
It’s not that Nix needs that interaction; he views it more as a responsibility.
“It’s just I feel that people deserve it,” he explained. “”I would love to interact with my favorite movie star or certain guys on T.V. I just feel like a lot of people will enjoy it more and get a point of view of what my life is or how I am.
“So I did Chocolate News. I went to the grocery store. That’s not a big thing, but some people will like that. I don’t mind doing it. It’s something I like to do.”
Nix also likes to smash people on the football field. The Fighting Irish coaching staff would like to see him take things to the next level this fall.
“I just keep learning and keep improving on whatever coach says I need to improve on,” he said. “Last year he said he needed to see consistency out of me. I’m trying to provide that. If he tells me he needs 20 sacks, I’ll try my best to go out there and get 20 sacks. It’s all about working with the coaches. He tells me what I need and that’s what I’ll do.”