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December 17, 2012
When Louis Nix took the field at Raines High School for the final time three years ago, he did it alone. His mother, Stephanie Ancrum, didn't make many of her son's games at the Jacksonville school and couldn't attend his last one.
That moment won't get replayed at Notre Dame.
On Monday, Notre Dame's outgoing nose guard announced he won't be going out of the Irish football program just yet. Nix had submitted paperwork to the NFL for a draft evaluation and was still deciding his next move as of a week ago. Now he knows, thanks in part to Ancrum leaning on her son ever since the regular season ended.
"She called me every day, 'I can't wait to walk on the field with you for Senior Day,'" Nix said. "She barely made it to any of my games. She didn't do the Senior Day with me in high school and she cried about it. That was a big one for me.
"She just had to work all the time. I couldn't afford to let her take off. She couldn't afford to take off."
The nose guard's return will be big for Notre Dame's defense, which loses three starters but returns two potential first-round picks on the defensive line in Nix and Stephon Tuitt. Nix said he didn't get his draft feedback and would post it in his locker for motivation depending on the results.
An NFL scout told Irish Illustrated that Nix likely would have graded in the second round, ahead of offensive tackle Zack Martin. That grade also would have put Nix ahead of Tyler Eifert last year and Michael Floyd two years ago.
Nix had a family tug to turn pro that most other players don't. The junior has more than a dozen siblings. During his senior year there were 10 family members living in a three-bedroom house in Jacksonville. Ancrum works at a cafeteria at a local hospital and when asked if that put enough food on the table, Nix said, 'yeah, usually."
Despite the financial pressure to leave, Nix got positive reinforcement from his mother to stay.
"She knows I have this big opportunity. She knows this will help us all out. But at the same time I believe she knows what's best for me," Nix said. "What if football doesn't work out? She wants me to fall back on something. She didn't go to a big college or whatever. She wants me to be better than her."
Now Nix, who worked with the second-team during spring practice and training camp, could be in line to help Notre Dame replace the leadership headed out the door in Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta. That would represent a big change for a nose guard who admitted not being happy at Notre Dame last spring.
Nine months later, Nix anchors one of college football's best defenses and is two semesters away from graduation. He's majoring in Film, Television and Theater with a minor in business.
"He's now a guy who gets it, he gets coach Kelly's system," said defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. "He's a stalwart as it relates to now just adding another leader. It's a huge positive for the unit and for our defense."
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