By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – It seems every time that I looked at defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon during the Iowa football team’s media day event this past Friday he was either smiling, laughing or both.
He was a 6-foot-3, 309-pound bundle of energy and enthusiasm, and his gift for gab and his willingness to engage in friendly conversation was hardly an act.
“Daviyon is always talking,” said junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa. “And it’s never bad. His voice just kind of echoes. I mean you love the guy. He’s always got good energy. His personality, it’s hard not to accept somebody like that, who’s just willing to try and bring happiness to a group of guys.
“You never see the guy and he’s upset. He’s always smiling and he’s always joking around. But he can get serious when it’s time to work. But Daviyon is a really great guy and we’re happy to have him. He’s done a lot of great things for us so far.”
But at this point, those great things have only occurred in practice because Nixon has yet to appear in a game for the Hawkeyes despite being more than two years removed from high school.
He played his freshman season for Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs and then was redshirted at Iowa this past season.
He made second-team all-conference in his only season at Iowa Western in 2017, but it was the scholarship offer that Nixon received from mighty Alabama while attending junior college that probably earned him the most attention.
Alabama only recruits the cream of the crop, so for Nick Saban to have offered Nixon a scholarship speaks volumes.
“Actually, the first thing I did was get on the phone and called the coaches here at Iowa and told them that I had just received an offer from Alabama,” Nixon said.
Asked how the Iowa coaches responded, Nixon said:
“They just said congratulations, but we’ve been here, so I’m like, that’s true.”
The fact that Iowa had stuck with Nixon throughout his recruitment, even when he went to junior college, was a big deal because it showed they were loyal and that they believed in him.
“It meant a lot,” Nixon said. “That was one of the main reasons why I stayed and came to Iowa. Loyalty is like a big thing for me and my family. So it meant a lot knowing that they had been there since high school.”
But even with Iowa’s loyalty and with all of Nixon’s positive energy and his fondness for being a Hawkeye, he did have some doubts about whether Iowa was the best place for him.
Nixon entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal this past winter, but ultimately decided that Iowa was his best option.
It does seem kind of odd that Nixon was redshirted last season after having also attended junior college for one year. But he now seems fully engaged and content with being a Hawkeye.
Nixon grew up in enemy territory as a native of Kenosha, Wis., but he actually enjoys being a Hawkeye in Badger land.
“It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun, I guess,” Nixon said. “A lot of fans back home are just my fans I would say. So it was like whatever school you go to we’re going to support you.”
Nixon hasn’t played in a real game in almost two years, but he thinks his time away from the field could be beneficial.
“It has been a long time,” Nixon said. “Sometimes, I feel like it’s a bad thing. But really, it’s a good thing because every day I’m coming out here and I’m learning something new and I feel like I’m just getting better and better and I feel like my game has elevated, even more than being in the game. It’s just practice and repetition.”
Nixon said he never questioned the path he was on despite all of the obstacles he had to overcome. He is a man of faith and that faith kept inspiring him to keep striving for his goals.
“Having faith in the good Lord and letting my ability to be here and giving me the graces and the blessings to be on this field and practicing every day with these type of guys, I never lost faith in what I had,” Nixon said.
Nixon certainly looks the part of a Big Ten defensive lineman with his muscular frame and his size.
But he said his personality sets him apart from most other defensive linemen.
“A lot of people say I bring a lot energy and a lot of happiness,” Nixon said. “So I bring smiles and stuff like that.
“That’s like my biggest thing, especially since the defensive linemen are always angry. So I try and make them laugh.”
Even on the field, Nixon tries to find happiness and joy in a sport that is known for its violence and rough play.
“You’ve got to have fun,” Nixon said. “If you don’t have fun then what’s the point in playing?”
Nixon is currently listed as backup at defensive tackle, but Iowa likes to rotate its defensive linemen in order to keep them fresh.
“It helps a lot,” Nixon said. “The more people we get in the better. If I can stay fresh, and all of the defensive linemen can stay fresh, it’s going to be an amazing year for us.”
It also helps that Nixon has been competing against Iowa’s offensive line, which features two of the Big Ten’s top tackles in juniors Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs, every day in practice. It’s sort of like iron sharpening iron.
“Every day is a constant battle,” Nixon said. “We go up against each other every day non-stop and it does help a lot.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz spoke highly of Nixon at media day this past Friday.
“Daviyon looks good, he's in good shape right now, probably the best shape he's been in his life,” Ferentz said. “He's done a nice job.”
Nixon will also have luxury of playing alongside Epenesa, who is considered one of the top defensive ends in college football, and alongside Chauncey Golston, who is an emerging star at the other defensive end position.
“We all bring something different and something special to the table,” Nixon said. “So knowing that you’ve got other guys that you can rely on and there is less eyes on you, that makes it worthwhile.”