Louis Nix needed a minute to get used to it.
Arguably Notre Dame’s best player and beyond a 357-pounder’s shadow of a doubt its biggest personality, Nix entered this season on the shoulders of the defensive hype created by Manti Te’o and a BCS National Championship Game run.
A year ago Nix craved All-American mention. Now that he’s getting it, Nix has wanted out of the spotlight since the open of training camp, not attending the team’s media day and available to reporters for the first time in almost a month this week. The overflowing personality is still there. But it’s added a harder edge to it as Nix continues his march toward graduation in December.
“For some reason people say I’m an All-American, they expect me to make 10 tackles,” Nix said. “I don’t think they really watch me. Last year I barely made a tackle a game. I don’t think people really know what I do.
“I get frustrated with that because people expect me to make Manti tackles and interceptions and that’s not my job.”
The senior’s burden is to command double teams and eat space. Against Temple, the Owls doubled Nix on roughly two-thirds of his 46 defensive snaps. Nix finished with just one tackle against an offense built around quick passes to the edges.
Against Michigan the Wolverines tried to counter Nix one-on-one despite three first-year starters on the offensive line. Nix finished with four tackles and one stop for loss. He logged 62 snaps and faced double teams on less than one-third of them.
“Louis Nix was a beast,” said Brian Kelly. “They couldn't block him. Played as well as he's played for us.Just they had no answers for him inside.”
Nix has also figured out how to process the scrutiny that comes with being Irish Chocolate. After committing three penalties against Temple, Nix committed just one at Michigan, which was offset by an identical flag on the Wolverines.
If Notre Dame takes every program’s best shot, as Kelly likes to say, Nix does on an individual level.
“It’s kind of hard to block him one-on-one,” said cornerback Bennett Jackson. “It’s smart for teams to double-team him and of course it gets frustrating when you can’t get in on every play. He’s come to an understanding of that. I felt he’s played a lot better or had a lot better understanding of that in the second game.”
Michigan finished with 166 yards rushing on 39 carries. But little of that came between the tackles where Nix traditionally roams. What was more impressive than his tackle total was how Nix went the distance in Ann Arbor, sometimes playing sideline-to-sideline.
On one snap in the second half Nix took on guard Graham Glasgow, beating him so soundly that pulling tackle Michael Schofield got stood up by Nix in the backfield. Nix got his hand on running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, enough to reroute the carry toward linebacker Jarrett Grace for a four-yard loss.
Nix was dynamic even with the game all but over, making tackles on back-to-back plays during Michigan’s clock killing drive. That included a two-yard tackle for loss on Toussaint.
“I think I’ve always been decent at practicing and stuff, but had to take it to another level.” Nix said. “People consider me an All-American and I’ve got to practice and play like one. I try to keep my intensity up.”