Thursday, February 28, 2013
A&M commit Nixon healthy and hungry
By Max Olson
Shaun Nixon struggled with injuries in 2012 but is looking forward to bouncing back this fall.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The motivation for running back Shaun Nixon is everywhere when he walks around the Lake Travis football office.
There are posters in the meeting room with the team’s season-long mottos for each of the five Class 4A state championship runs. Big, glossy photos of all those title teams decorate the hallway.
But they won’t be celebrating the 2012 Cavaliers much. Yes, that team went 9-2 and won its district. But the injury-ravaged outfit was knocked out of playoffs in the first round. A good year, all things considered, but not when you expect championships.
It was an especially painful year for Nixon, who sat out part of the season with a partially torn MCL. Now the Texas A&M commit is healthy, happy and no doubt focused.
“I’m fine. I’m 100 percent,” Nixon said. “I’m ready for spring ball. As a team, we’re planning to win state again. We’re going to be bigger, stronger and faster.”
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound back is putting that knee to the test this spring. He’s running the 100, 200, 4x100, 4x200 and performing the long and triple jumps during this spring track season.
In fact, Nixon just improved his previous personal best with a 10.8 in the 100. That breakthrough assured him the knee is going to be just fine, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to think about it now.
“I kept me out a couple of games, but you know, I came back as soon as I could for my team and tried to do as much as I could,” he said. “It obviously wasn’t enough to get us past the first round. It’s all in the effort.”
That injury held Nixon to 756 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground as a junior, though he did add 437 receiving yards and three more scores through the air. Coming off a 1,250-yard sophomore campaign, that’s not what Nixon was expecting.
Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said that injury was just one of many that set the team back in 2012.
“I think everybody was frustrated. He was running behind a different group of offensive linemen every week because of all the injuries,” Carter said. “People were able to devote a lot of attention to Shaun and scheme to stop him. Tough year for everybody. But he’s healed up and been competing in track and lifting and doing everything to get ready for spring ball.”
Since committing to A&M in November, Nixon said he has continued to hear from other schools but remains solid in his pledge.
He is looking forward to seeing how things change in August when recruiters can call and text him nonstop, but right now he’s perfectly content.
“I committed to A&M verbally, but there’s still coaches out there trying to reach out to me,” he said. “I’m trying to stay faithful. It’s not a problem for me. I picked a place, and I’m going to stick with it.”
Nixon enjoyed witnessing the program’s transformation in year one under Kevin Sumlin, and he’s glad his recruiter, Clarence McKinney, was promoted to run the offense this offseason.
An education in the Lake Travis offensive scheme should prepare Nixon well for what’s ahead, and A&M coaches have assured him that their style of offense is quite similar to what the Cavaliers do.
“The coaches and I have talked about it multiple times, and they say it’s one of the closest to their offense,” Nixon said. “The coaches over there at A&M said I’ll fit in well. They said they’ve got a lot of things to get me out on the field, screen routes and stuff like that. Basically, some of the stuff Trey Williams was doing.”
Carter grew up an Aggies fan as the son of an A&M grad, and he’s looking forward to seeing how Nixon is utilized once he gets on campus next year.
“I think it’s going to be a good fit,” Carter said. “I’m not sure exactly how they’ll use him, but he can play a number of positions. He’s our best running back, but if you put him out at receiver he’d be our best receiver, too. He’s a very talented guy.”
With Lake Travis breaking in a new quarterback for 2013, Nixon knows the burden of leadership is his to carry in 2013.
That also might mean he carries much -- if not most -- of the Lake Travis offense on his back this fall. Coming off the disappointments of his junior season, that’s just fine with Nixon.
“The coaches, they told me I’m going to get the ball probably 90 percent of the time,” he said. “I’ve got to keep this team going and be a leader. I’ve taken on that role, and I’m trying to do the best I can.”