The wild year that has been 2020 finally comes to a close on Thursday, but the Iowa Hawkeyes couldn’t let the year change over without more twists and turns.
Redshirt junior Daviyon Nixon has been the highlight of the Iowa defense throughout 2020. In a year where there were questions about the interior of the defensive line and the ability to rush the passer entering the season, Nixon has consistently been the answer.
Over the last several weeks, the Kenosha, Wisconsin native has earned virtually every award imaginable for a defensive lineman. He was named 1st Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media, and was selected not only as the conference’s defensive lineman of the year, but also the defensive player of the year.
Since then, he has continued to watch the accolade accumulate. He’s been named one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy. He was named a 1st Team All-American by the Sporting News, the Associated Press, The Athletic and ESPN. And on Wednesday, the big man became the 12th Hawkeye in the Kirk Ferentz era to become a consensus All-American after being named to the 1st team by the Football Writer’s Association of America.
As we’ve seen with all the other All-America teams, Nixon was joined by center Tyler Linderbaum, who was named to the 2nd team.
By now, the stats should roll off the tongue for Hawkeye fans. Nixon finishes his junior season with 45 total tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and the greatest 71-yard interception return for a touchdown you’ll ever witness.
As was highlighted by our own Rob Donaldson a little over a month ago, Nixon was flat out dominant this season.
Not only has Nixon been a joy to watch on the field, he’s become a fan favorite off the field. His journey to Iowa City is widely known by now, but it’s worth repeating.
Due to grade issues, Nixon was lightly recruited out of high school. After committing to the Hawkeyes, he wasn’t cleared by the NCAA initially and enrolled at Iowa Western Community College. Despite later qualifying upon appeal, Nixon had already begun classes and practice and chose to stay at IWCC for his freshman season.
There, he did what he has done this season in Iowa City. His on field domination earned him a scholarship offer from Alabama (it’s worth noting that technically, this was a recruiting violation as Nixon was still bound by his NLI to Iowa, but his talent was apparently worth the risk). Nixon stayed firm with the school that gave him a chance.
After a redshirt season in 2018, Nixon dipped his toes in the transfer waters and entered his name in the portal. Again, he chose to stick with Iowa. There, he saw relatively limited action in 2019 before bursting onto the scene in a lead role this season. The rest, as they say, is history.
On Wednesday, we learned where the next chapter of Daviyon Nixon’s journey will take him and that’s out of Iowa City. As has widely been expected given the immense talent and incredible production this season, Nixon announced his decision to forego his senior year at Iowa and enter the NFL Draft.
As disappointing as it is for Hawkeye fans to know we will not again see Nixon in an Iowa uniform (and frankly a bit frustrating that we lost two more shots to witness the greatness against Michigan and Missouri), it is unquestionably the right more.
Nixon’s draft stock is sky high at the moment. Say what you will about ESPN, the mothership and Mel Kiper remain king in terms of NFL Draft prognostication. In Kiper’s latest Big Board, he has Daviyon Nixon projected as a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. Not only is Nixon projected as a top-10 pick, Kiper has him as the top defensive lineman off the board. That kind of draft spot comes with lots of zeros on the paycheck, and most of them guaranteed.
Should Nixon in fact go that high, it would be an incredible crowning achievement for a young man to has battled through adversity and embodied all the good that Hawkeye fans had come to know as the Iowa Way. He’s invested in the system. He’s worked hard. He’s improved grades. He’s bought his time climbing the depth chart. When he got his opportunity he made the absolute most of it and now, he’s about to get paid.
Congratulations to Daviyon Nixon on an incredible junior season, an incredible Hawkeye career and an amazing journey that’s hopefully just getting started.