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Rookie diaries: Daviyon Nixon trying to pass muster


SPARTANBURG — It's a fine line for rookies in training camp.

You want to be noticed, but only if it's for the right things.

For fifth-round defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, that means learning how to study, learning how move through practice, and learning when to hustle out of a room (more on that later).

"I feel like things are going pretty smoothly," Nixon said. "I feel like my coaches see some potential in me based on where they have me right now, so I'm just trying to get better every day and stay on everyone's good side. Understanding the game plan and the plays and all that is coming a lot easier for me now. I'm getting more comfortable with the motions of how we practice and how fast to go and what to do and not to do.

"It does take a little second. Once you get in, you got to catch up quick. You've got to get the standard, when you first get here, coaches tell you the standard, and you see players and they show you the standard. It's like all right, I've got to live up to that standard or I might be gone."

Daviyon Nixon

Nixon mentioned the benefit of having an elder like DaQuan Jones in the meeting room and on the field, as the coaches have praised Jones consistently for the example he's setting.

"He's taking time to help me make sure I know my footwork, or to do this with my hands," Nixon said. "It's a lot of help having those older guys to help slow the game down for us, so we can get onto the motions of things and play faster."

Nixon has also drawn some attention for his singing ability in a recent team meeting, with head coach Matt Rhule saying he had a "beautiful voice." But that's not why he's here, and he's also showing some evidence of what he put on tape at Iowa.

An athletic interior player, Nixon had 13.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, and a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown last year, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also has long arms and a quick first step, and could eventually find a role here as a rusher on passing downs.

"Daviyon Nixon, I've been very pleased with," Rhule said. "I think he's shown some quickness, I think he's shown some explosiveness.

"The key is, and we talk to our guys all the time, is who can handle the volume, the repetitive nature of training camp, and so heading into this third week, we'll see, but I've been pleased with Daviyon."

Nixon knows that's what they're looking for, so he's making a concerted effort to make sure he's actively listening during practice, and at all other times a day.

"Mainly, I'm just not taking things personal, being coachable, just listening instead of talking so much," he said. "Not making excuses for why I did or didn't do that, instead of just listening and moving onto the next things.

"Other than that, just trying to not get fines, little things that make me stand out in the best way possible other than the worst way."

Wait, fines?

Nixon realized at that moment he had, well, let one slip.

The rookie mentioned that when he's in the defensive line room, there's a system of penalties, a kangaroo court way of maintaining a positive work environment.

"You can get fined for farting in the D-line room," he admitted. "Like if you fart and you're not all the way out the door, fine. And it's like times two on game day. You've got to get out of the room.

"A mental error or missed assignment, yeah, I get that. But we get fined if we fart or don't get a haircut by game day. It's tough."

Daviyon Nixon

Veteran defensive end Morgan Fox said he's been encouraged by what he's seen from Nixon on the field, and the importance of meeting-room etiquette as well.

"We all have to be in that room," Fox said. "This is a very stressful business, but it's supposed to be fun. It's something less than one percent of the world can do, and you should enjoy it when you're here. So things like that give a little levity, and keep a little fun, and you can forget the stress for a minute."

But Nixon's a rookie, and he knows his margin of error is much smaller. So he tries to stay quick on his feet, whether it's on the field or while watching film.

He wouldn't disclose how much he's had to donate to the fund (which will go to a good cause at season's end), but he's hoping to remain, for lack of a better phrase, silent but deadly.

"So far, so good," Nixon said with a grin.

At this point in his rookie training camp, that's all he — and his teammates — can ask for.

View photos from Sunday's training camp practice at Wofford.

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