Iowa Football

Daviyon Nixon's long, winding road appears to be leading to success for Iowa football

Defensive tackle had first career sack against Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders quarterback Asher O'Hara (10) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon (54) in the second quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders quarterback Asher O'Hara (10) is tackled by Iowa Hawkeyes defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon (54) in the second quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — They brought him into the special interview room postgame Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium. The one that is reserved for Coach Kirk Ferentz and the player or players of the game.

Daviyon Nixon stood at the podium and asked how everyone was doing, flashing a million-dollar smile.

He fielded a handful of queries from reporters, then there was silence. A Sports Information Department guy asked if that was it.

“No more questions?” Nixon asked, that smile of his even wider.

The sophomore defensive tackle could have stood there and talked for hours because that’s just him. He’s a character, but in a good way.

A friendly, loquacious, engaging guy. And an emerging guy.

He sure was a presence in Iowa’s 48-3 blowout of Middle Tennessee. He finished with five solo tackles, seven overall, including 2.5 for loss.

He also notched his first sack, a disruptive force that helped keep do-everything Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara well in check.

“It felt like slow motion when it happened, to be honest,” Nixon said of his late second-quarter sack. “The quarterback is so elusive and so fast. We were trying to tackle him down and make sure we were keeping him in the pocket. On that play, we were able to do that. I was able to take it home for us. It felt good.”

It feels good for Nixon to finally be back on the field.

His story is well chronicled: a Kenosha, Wis., kid who attended Iowa Western Community College for a year to help him academically. Alabama offered him while he was at Iowa Western, but he stuck with Iowa, redshirting last season for academic reasons.

Nixon entered the transfer portal over the summer and appeared to be out the door without ever getting a snap in for the Hawkeyes. But he ultimately determined Iowa was where he should stay, and here we are: a 6-foot-3 and 309-pounder with an intriguing skill set, starting to come into his own.

“In my pass rush, I would say yes, I’m still trying to knock off a little bit of the rust,” Nixon said. “Get to the quarterback more and affect the passes and things like that. But other than that, I feel good. I feel fast. I may be 300 pounds, but I’m fast.”

As you can imagine, that smile appeared after he said that.

Nixon did not start the Middle Tennessee game, as Austin Schulte was the guy replacing injured Brady Reiff. He did get the nod for Reiff to start the Iowa State game two weeks ago.

Nixon admitted he broke down and cried after Iowa’s season-opening win over Miami (Ohio), appreciating the long road he took to get to that game. His first start also was emotional, but in a different way.

“It was fun, but I was so nervous,” he said. “I had to go out there and play for Brady Reiff because he was injured. I was playing for him and every Hawkeye, all my brothers. I was so nervous, the first play I got tossed, and I was like ‘Jeez, this is how the game is going to start?’ But as the game progressed, I feel like I did much better.”

He said the multiple weather delays in that game helped him get over the nerves.

“I’ve started my whole life, so it wasn’t like I was going to cry about it or anything like that,” he said. “I told myself ‘It’s another start for you. Go out there and play.’ That first game, not being out there for so long, that was very emotional.

“After that first play against Iowa State, I was like ‘This is not how this game is going to go.’ The rain delays helped me settle down, helped me focus.”

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Iowa (4-0) stayed at 14th in Sunday’s AP college football poll, as it readies for this Saturday’s big game at Michigan (3-1). The Wolverines are up one spot from last week, at No. 19.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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