Man in the middle
Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, October 4, 2012
He’s a man who goes by many names: No. 9, Nasty Dawg, Big Lou. But to more than 4,000 Facebook friends, 179,000 YouTube viewers and 8,000 Twitter followers, junior nose guard Louis Nix is known by one name and one name only.
“Irish Chocolate … It came from Facebook. I normally chat all my friends on Facebook, and I wanted a nice classic name,” Nix said. “A name of greatness, better than all the greats. Better than the Black Mamba, better than the Bus and the Fridge. I wanted it to be Irish Chocolate. My people came up with a nice name, and that’s what I settled with.”
After the long-winding journey of searching for a nickname, Nix said he finally came across something that fit him to the core.
“Since it’s a name, I need something that I am going to live up to. I’m a sweet guy, like I am covered with chocolate,” he said between laughs. “I am just like a Hershey’s bar. On the outside it looks delicious and really good. But on the inside there is just this splash of ‘Wow!’ And it can hit you in the mouth if you’re not careful about it. Got it?”
Gaining a following
The 6-foot-3, 326-pound lineman is as jolly as they come, usually equipped with his trademark smile and never one to pass up a guaranteed-to-make-you-smile wisecrack. Nix is a social-media triple threat, maintaining a presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. But when compared to the best of the best in the social world, Nix said he has the upper hand.
“I don’t think Justin Bieber is as handsome as I am. But I could say that I am up there with him,” Nix said. “I just need more people to get with the Irish Chocolate movement. Yeah, it’s a movement. It’s a way of life.
“Some people just can’t experience this chocolate movement. I want everyone to get it, that’s why I put it out. That’s why I am on Twitter, that’s why I talk about it on Facebook. Because once this Irish Chocolate hits you, it makes your life just a little bit better.”
With his 8,086-and-counting Twitter followers, Nix trails only senior linebacker Manti Te’o’s 33,647 followers for the lead on the Irish defense. But the Jacksonville, Fla., native said his social media blueprint is hardly in its beginning stages.
“I just want as many followers as I can. I’m thinking 200,000,” he said. “I like to entertain. I like to make people laugh. I want everybody to get a little laugh here and there. But I can be emotional too. That’s just the type of guy I am.”
Nix said the response to his Irish Chocolate movement the past two seasons has been so enormous that Facebook banned him from adding friends once he crossed the 5,000 threshold, causing him to cut back. The lineman also said he tries to respond to each of his fans’ messages, even the occasional relationship request.
“I think [responding to fans] means a lot,” he said. “I get a lot of random responses though. I’ve gotten responses about how Irish Chocolate could help relationships, about how I could help people be a better football player, about how to go to Notre Dame. I get ‘I like you’ responses too, but there are not too many of those left because I have a girlfriend.”
The Film, Television, and Theatre major revels in his starring role in a YouTube web-series he calls “Chocolate News,” which averages upwards of 20,000 viewers per episode. The series showcases the life of a Notre Dame football player, from team shopping to Notre Dame’s trip to Ireland.
“What’s ‘Chocolate News’? It’s just my everyday life, just a behind-the-scenes look at what people don’t see that often,” Nix said. “I’m not [a superstar] yet. I’m just a regular guy. But people just want to see me. They want to see the life of a Notre Dame player. I try to give them my point of view on things, as much as I can. The fact that so many people watch is just so funny to me. I enjoy it a lot.”
Sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt often plays a role in Nix’s documentary-style filming, as Nix almost always carries his camcorder with him.
“‘Chocolate News’ is his little thing,” Tuitt said. “Watching it, to me, is funny. He’s a funny guy and an emotional guy, not an ordinary type of guy, but he’s Louis Nix.”
Despite all the attention, Nix said his extracurricular activities don’t take away from football or school. Rather, they help the junior relax.
“It never is a distraction because it is just me,” Nix said. “All that stuff is just me. I just enjoy it. It will never get in the way of my books or my plays because that is really what helps me stay focused. I need that type of stuff to keep me in order.”
Coming out of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Nix played in the Under Armour All-American Game after an outstanding senior season in which he totaled 50 tackles and 10 sacks. As a four-star recruit, he originally committed to Miami, his favorite team as a child, before switching to Notre Dame and Irish coach Brian Kelly.
“Yeah, I sure can [remember my first impression of Nix]. It’s probably what your first impressions were,” Kelly said. “This big mammoth of a man who had a kid-like personality. He continues to have that. He’s just added a lot of maturity to that kid-like personality.”
Since coming into his first preseason camp overweight in 2010, Nix has learned to mix business with pleasure and became a comedic outlet for the veterans while remaining a steady example for younger players.
“He just knows when to be serious and when it’s the time to play,” freshman defensive end Sheldon Day said.
Nix credits this gradual transformation for his improved performance in 2012.
“This year I feel like I am more mature, but I am the same me,” he said. “I feel like I can deal with different situations in a more mature way.”
Despite not seeing any playing time in 2010, Nix started 11 games in the 2011 season and recorded 45 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss. Kelly said he too has noticed the improvements in Nix’s mentality and approach to the game.
“He’s just continued to grow as a player,” Kelly said. “He gives us more and more preparation, a more purposeful approach every single day. He’s on the trend, if you will. He’s trending, that’s a Twitter kind of deal, right? Trending. He’s definitely doing all of those things to get better every day.”
This season, the junior has seen multiple double-teams at the critical nose guard position in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defensive scheme, leading to more opportunities for his teammates. With Nix plugging up the middle, Notre Dame held potential Heisman candidates in Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to 77 and 90 yards rushing, respectively. Notre Dame remains the only team in the country who has yet to yield a rushing touchdown and is third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing nine points per game. Nix and his 16 tackles (three for loss) are a big reason why.
“I think people are starting to notice me,” Nix said. “My name is starting to come up and people know me as a nice guy. If you are a trending topic on Twitter [or] in football, people will start to notice you.”
The Irish defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in the last two games – both against top-25 teams – and Nix said it comes down to dissipating the pressure across the entire defense and simply having fun.
“I like to talk to the other team, have some conversations,” Nix said half-jokingly. “I hug them all of the time. The Michigan linemen were really nice. I had a conversation with them the whole game.
“But [the defensive line] has come together really close in the last year. We are really loose and enjoy it and just like to have fun. Last year we were maybe being too serious. Now we have more fun. We hang out more. It’s just like a family atmosphere.”
Although he embraces Twitter, Nix found himself in a thorny situation last year after tweeting, “Hopping on the Delta and might never come back” following the departure of former Irish defensive end Aaron Lynch.
“It wasn’t anything. It was hard times, getting a little homesick,” Nix said. “But that’s over. That was last year and now I’m focused. I have everything in order that needs to be in order. I’m on time to graduate. I have almost a 3.0 GPA. I’m just trying to stay focused. Last year there was a lot of stuff going on in my life, but that’s changed now and I just want to keep pushing it.”
Following football, Nix said he has his sights set on the television business as the perfect outlet for his engaging personality.
“I’m thinking sports broadcasting or something like that,” he said. “Maybe I could do ‘Louis.0’ and kick Daniel Tosh out of there. Or I could be something like [Michael Strahan]. Or maybe kick Jack [Nolan] out and get Louis Nix in there.”
Graduate student captain and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said Nix’s attitude refreshes the entire team and keeps things upbeat at all times.
“You have to have the kid love of the game. He has fun with it,” Lewis-Moore said. “Everybody knows Louis is a character. He keeps the game fun, he keeps you laughing and kind of loosens things up.”
When asked about the one thing he wants the Notre Dame student body to know about him more than anything, the team funnyman responded in less time than it takes him to fill up on his gameday-standard five bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
“I love my momma,” Nix said. “Tell them I love my momma.”
Welcome to the Irish Chocolate Show, where characters are always welcome.