Xavier Nixon comes into this fall hoping to hear cheers again. I'll be happy to provide mine.
There are 19 days until Florida's September 1 opener with Bowling Green. There are 73 entries left in the 100 For 100 series. So it's four entries per day from here on out.
Xavier Nixon is one of a few people who have blocked @AlligatorArmy on Twitter, and, well, I have no idea why exactly he blocked me. The jokes I made last fall about Nixon's inability to protect Florida quarterbacks were little different from the ones much of the rest of the Gators fan base was making, the sort of dark humor that we are so good at using to salve our wounds.
I don't really regret those jokes, even the one that blocking me was about the best block he had made all season. Nixon simply wasn't very good in 2011, beleaguered by a mysterious inability to keep weight on his tall frame that never got fully explained publicly, and his play on the Florida line, seemingly rock-solid after an excellent freshman campaign in 2009, had become a liability.
Since then, Nixon's apparently gotten the weight on under Jeff Dillman, and looks more like the old Nixon than the underweight one who got bullied in SEC play. Actually, I shouldn't say apparently: I saw Nixon a lot this summer, because we had a class together, and he looked bigger than the 275ish pounds he may have played 2011 at and close to the 314 pounds he's currently listed at.
But it's not him looking good that endeared me to Nixon. What he said in that class is why there's no Gator I'm rooting for harder in 2012.
The class was Sociology of Poverty, a third-period MTWRF Summer A class held in CSE E220 — a windowless room in Marston near the CIRCA Computer Lab. Nixon's been listed as a sociology major before, but I have no idea if, like me, he is one. I do know that while I rolled my eyes at a fair bit of the material, and indeed wrote posts on this very website while in class, I was very much interested in it, and in how other people explained things in it.
So was Xavier Nixon.
He sat in the back of the class, often with Matt Patchan (there were a few football players in this class), because the back of the room was the best for stretching out long legs. But he was still an active part of the discussions, few though they were, in the class, and really seemed to get both the theory and the importance of the stuff talked about — which is far more than I can say for both some other players and some of the sociology majors in the class.
This was not a particularly hard class, to be fair, but Nixon reminded me more of me than anyone else in it, with one distinction: While I am and he seemed sincerely interested in the plight of the very poor, he also seemed well aware of how grinding poverty can be in a way that suggested more experience around or in it than I have. He seemed like one of the wisest dudes I've come across in sociology classes, someone who came to it to learn as much as he already knew. I like people like that a lot.
I meant to stick around after the final, introduce myself, explain why I'm a jerk with jokes on Twitter, and wish him well, but part of it not being a particularly hard class was that the final was cake, something I finished in about 15 minutes, and I had to hustle to take another final early so I could get home and be able to make my flight to Omaha. (Ah, Omaha.) So I didn't, and I regret that a lot.
Nixon seeming like one of the rarer birds of college athletics — a student who seems to like learning, in addition to being a football player — endeared him to me. Nixon eating something virtually every day in class did, too, and his Jay-Z tweets made me like him as a person before last fall. I hope he has the best season he can possibly have, not just for the Gators but for himself.
And I hope I get the chance to shake his hand after some other sociology class. I want to remember the good guys well.