Welcome to the Archive of The Carrboro Citizen Logo Image

That ‘family atmosphere’

By Eddy Landreth, Staff Writer

In the last 15 to 20 years, it has become chic among athletes to say they picked a college because of the family atmosphere within a particular program.

But just when you figure the phrase “family atmosphere” belongs in the same category as “character players,” along comes a kid who knows the difference between family and a collection of people.

Jordan Nix, who is from Lawton, Okla., thought he had found his family when he chose the Oklahoma Sooners out of high school. When the arrangement did not work out after a couple of months in the summer of 2007 following his high-school graduation, the 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound defensive tackle left Norman for Oklahoma A&M before OU had played its first game.

After one season there, his high school coach called him and told him UNC was interested.

Nix caught a plane to Raleigh-Durham International, and when he got to Chapel Hill he found what he had spent most of his life seeking.

“One thing I’ve never had was family,” Nix said. “I’ve been in foster care since I was 6, being in the system. This is a real family environment. They genuinely care about you. They said, ‘We know what you’ve been through, and we want to help you become a lot better in your life.’”

Nix is a junior at UNC, and his time has arrived. With losses to graduation and the possible loss of Marvin Austin to NCAA sanctions, the Tar Heels need Nix to produce.

“I came in this summer training not as a backup but as a starter,” Nix said. “I’m not saying I’m going to be a starter, but that is my mentality in this training camp.”

Nix is not a name many Carolina fans know, not yet anyway. But potential All-American Robert Quinn said he thinks it is just a matter of time.

“He is one of the best defensive tackles in run-stopping,” Quinn said. “In one-on-one contact, he has the best [jump] on it. He’s gotten a lot more mature. He’s been here three years now. He knows it is his time.”

The defense is expected to be the engine that drives this team. While there may be some uncertainty at tackle with Austin’s status unknown, depth is otherwise a blessing across the defensive lineup.

This defense appears to be much like the group that dominated in 1996 and ’97 and eventually put more than 14 players from that side of the ball into pro football.

Quinn could become the overall top pick in next spring’s National Football League draft. But what matters right now is what these kids can do for Carolina while they are still wearing Tar Heel uniforms.

Nix said he has faith this group can accomplish great things as long as it sticks together and works to accomplish its goals as if it is a true family.

“We’re becoming more of a unit rather than individuals,” Nix said. “We’re working the defense rather than doing our own thing. When we perfect that, I don’t see why we can’t be one of the top defensive lines in the nation.”

Comments are closed.