Jack Britt's Nixon breaking the mold

Highly ranked senior offensive lineman credits basketball for his athleticism

Staff WriterAugust 19, 2008 

  • This is a first in a series on the top high school football players in North Carolina. Look for a profile each Tuesday in the Huddle.

Xavier Nixon once had hoop dreams.

Now his hopes rest on the football field.

The Jack Britt High senior is considered the nation's top offensive lineman in this year's recruiting crop.

It's because Nixon, listed at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds, can move on the football field with the type of agility he does on a basketball court.

He remains dedicated to both sports, but football now comes first.

"My coaches showed me the facts," said Nixon, reflecting back on his sophomore year, when coach Richard Bailey approached him about shifting his focus.

At Nixon's size, he would likely be an average basketball player in the post. As a football player, his speed and size would make him special, possibly put him in position to play in the NFL.

His coaches didn't have much trouble convincing him.

"His footwork is exceptional," said Miller Safrit, regional editor for Scout.com.

Nixon credits basketball for his athleticism.

"It helped me stay in shape, running up and down the court all the time," Nixon said.

That fitness is what makes college scouts excited. Nixon is not the typical, overweight offensive lineman. Most of his pounds are muscle.

"Before they were going for 300 pounds because that was just what everybody had to have," Safrit said. "But that means 45 percent body fat. That's not good because they can't move fast. They had to get them to lose a bunch of weight and then gain the good weight."

Tall, lean offensive linemen such as Nixon break that mold.

So when Nixon heads down field, he is a real force on the blocking front.

"Usually, a big guy suffers when he gets down field," Bailey said.

Nixon would be welcome at any college program but his list has nine schools, including N.C. State and North Carolina, as well as Florida, Miami and Notre Dame. There is no front-runner at this time, Nixon said.

He plans to announce his decision in January at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which invites the top 80 high school football players.

There is special significance to to that event beyond the obvious. Both of Nixon's parents are in the military and are former Army drill sergeants.

His freshman year, both of his parents were deployed in Iraq and his grandmother watched him.

While they were gone, Xavier grew six inches and into the young man with so much potential.

His parents' absence was the hardest thing he's ever had to get through, Nixon said.

"I was basically by myself," he said. "I had to teach myself how to provide for myself."

He kept a tight relationship with his folks during that time, and despite all the attention he's getting now, those around him say he's still mild-mannered and disciplined.

"All I have to do is talk to his mom and things get straightened out pretty quick," Bailey laughed. "He's a confident guy, but he's a humble guy."

"I'm a down-to-earth person," Nixon said. "I was laid back before all of this football started."

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