Let's get the obvious out of the way: Louis Nix is an enormous man who is expected to be one of first defensive tackles taken off the board during the 2014 NFL Draft. He showed up at the NFL Combine at 331 pounds and was considered trim.
Nix is also one of the most engaging personalities of his class. Those who like college football and know their way around the internet have already been following the man known as "Irish Chocolate" on Twitter for years now. His narration of the Pinstripe Bowl was delightful. He produced a YouTube series called "Chocolate News" that may have reached its apex with a trip to Costco. He made fun of Brian Kelly purple-face in front of Kelly.
Nix has no problem being the good-natured person he is, but he also wants to set the record straight that he will be a competitor when the time comes. He spoke with SB Nation last week, and after some technical difficulty he explained what living the "Irish Chocolate" lifestyle meant, what he has learned during the draft process and what he was thinking when he took a tumble during the broad jump at the Combine.
So what's your training regimen like right now?
The stuff we've been doing is basically in preparation for the Combine and my Pro Day, so we get into the weightroom a lot, we do a lot of lifting, doing some squats to get our legs powerful, our upper body powerful, we work on starts for the 40.
But the biggest part was the nutrition. They want to show us how to eat right, how to eat our portions, how to make our muscle, eat more muscle, how to take the fat off.
What have you changed about your diet?
The portions might be the biggest thing I've learned. You know, I'm a bigger guy, so sometimes I eat a lot more than I probably think I am eating. You know, I usually think "a big amount is good for me because I'm a bigger athlete." Sometimes you have to eat a certain amount just to get your stomach a little full, drink water afterwards. Things like that.
I eat more salads for lunch and stuff like that, I balance out my meals, I eat less bread, I consume stuff like almonds, peanuts or something. Just a bunch of things that I wasn't doing before that I'm doing now. Even after the Combine I'm going to eat right.
Did you discover you liked something that you didn't think you were going to like?
I'm actually one of those guys who's open to anything, I'll eat anything once. But if it's something real weird, like squid or something, don't tell me what it is, just let me eat it to see how it tastes.
Coming of a pretty serious knee injury, is it relief to be back in the training process and competing again?
It's been all good, I haven't been concerned about it the way some people have. My employers may have been concerned about it, but my mindset has always been to get back to where you know you can be at, get back to running around and showing people that you can run. That's my mindset. I haven't been preparing hard now. I've always been about getting myself back to where I am, now.
Have you been able to reach out to anyone during the pre-Draft process? Where are you getting advice?
You get the gist of it as you do the training.
You take the Combine. You go to the Combine, and in high school and college you think the Combine is this big event to showcase your skills, but it's a little bit more than that. You go through all of this medical process, you know, it takes up a lot of your time, you have to do all of these psychological tests. It gets a little bit frustrating.
Through that, I wound up thinking that this wasn't what you would think it is, then you get up to the field to do the drill work and stuff, and then afterwards you literally pack. So I've been sore for two days already.
You now know that it's not this camp you go to like as a high school junior or something. It's something serious, you know, I've been taking it seriously.
I am just taking it in stride and trying to do my best.
What has Ian Williams told you?
He just gives me the layout, tells me that I have to stay in shape. The stuff I've learned at API now I need to bring over to my life in general. I need to keep that in my life; eating right, staying healthy, taking care of my body moreso. He tells me little things like that. I think it's beneficial.
What was the Combine like? Was it all stress? All fun?
The first three days, the medical and psychological tests...I went from 8 o'clock in the morning to...well, I woke up at 4 a.m. because you gotta do the pee test, and then I couldn't go back to sleep because when I wake up, I wake up. I'm not a morning guy. I woke up at 4, couldn't get any sleep, was downstairs by 7:45, made it to the doctors by 8 or 8:15, and I didn't get done with all my medical stuff -- including X-rays, MRIs and meeting with 32 team doctors getting poked on and pulled on -- until 8:15 at night. It was a long day for me.
That's not as fun as some would think that Combine preparation would be, but when we got to the fourth day and we got to do the drill work and the on-field work, I thought it was pretty fun. I was shaking a little bit. A lot of guys were pretty nervous. We started, we were just motivated, cheering each other on and we got along with the players.
All of us want a job, but we push each other to do well, so it was pretty fun at the last day.
Who are some of the other 2014 draft prospect who you connected with?
I connected with some of the guys that were already there, guys I've been training with at API. I got to talk with some of the guys I grew up with; as in going to camps and stuff with, going through the high school process with, like Tim Jernigan. I got to see my boy Christian Jones. I got talk to Dominique Easley because we played in the Under Armour Game together.
Guys like that, the guys that you got recruited with, got recruited by the same schools that went other places. You get to talk to them, just chat it up and figure out what happened to them, or what's been going on in their lives, so that was good having a little connection with a couple people.
Were you pleased, overall, with how your Combine went?
As far as numbers go, I really didn't care too much about those. Of course I wanted to run a 4.4 or 4.5 like Clowney. That didn't happen, but I think I did decent. I always want to do better and get better, but as far as numbers I wasn't worried. I was more so worried about showing that I could move and get out there and that I'm working hard preparing myself to get back to where I was.
The numbers are okay, but whatever, it's all about me getting healthy and showing than I can move around.
Have you received any feedback from coaches or scouts that were there?
Nah, I didn't really get any feedback yet. I'm back at Arizona still doing stuff with API, I'm not even concerned with that. I'm still on my grind. When I get the feedback, I'll know then, but at this time I don't have any.
The broad jump. What was going through your mind as you lost your balance and fell backwards?
All right, like, when it happened I was like, ah! On my first one, my foot kind of slid on the ground a little bit, so they marked that one, I actually got the first one. The second one, the tip of my middle finger hit the ground when I landed, and I had it perfect but my finger hit the ground real quick for like a millisecond, and [the measurer] was like 'nah, can't let you slide.'
So that last one -- I think that was the last one I did -- I jumped, and I thought I had it, I was on the ground just paused for a second, you know. I came up, and I thought "all right, I landed it, it's good!" He started measuring me, and felt like I was falling back and just started moving my arms like "whoa!"
The only thing I could think was that song [sings] "I'm going down, I'm yelling timberrrr," that's what was going through my head.
But then I caught myself and fell back gracefully I would say. Like a swan.
Did the other guys make a lot of comments about it?
Nah, they didn't until the little video came out! I think the cameraman might have overexaggerated it [ED: This might have been partially our fault] because when I hit the ground his camera started shaking, and I was [laughs] "come on, man." Because I know I didn't make the ground shake.
After that, a lot of people were laughing at me, a lot of family members, but I thought it was funny too.
What is the origin of Irish Chocolate?
I want to be a great player, and a lot of great players have a nickname and they're beasting on the field at the same time. I just wanted to get a nickname first, and then start beasting on the field. I mean, I did a pretty good job of beasting on the field, but I could probably do a way lot more of it.
I asked a couple fans to make up a nickname because I'm involved with social media, and a couple nicknames were thrown out there, like the "Chocolate King," you know, or "Irish Destroyer," something like that. Then I heard Irish Chocolate and I was like, "all right, I like that one, let's go with that one." So I changed my Twitter handle to @1irishcholate and it just stuck. I still like the nickname to this day. It's not just a nickname, it's a lifestyle you gotta live by.
And how do you live the Irish Chocolate lifestyle?
Me being Irish Chocolate, I want to be this nice, humble guy, but at the same time ... just picture chocolate, it's creamy, smooth, that's what I want to be, but at the same time, too much chocolate, it'll kill you.
I want to reinforce that, you know, too much of me ... you can't handle too much chocolate or something bad will happen, and I want to reinforce that on the field. That's the lifestyle I want to live by.
How does all that translate to the field? You're known as being as being a good-natured guy.
It's a competition, I'm a competitor. I want to make sure I'm competing to my fullest.
At times you can critique me and say "he could have done more of this, or he could have gotten more pushback" so I learn from that and I look at that, and I want to be a better player.
You know, I might be a humble guy, real nice, but ask anybody when I come on the field I want to win the game. I turn that light on. Some people don't think I can, just based on who I am and they didn't see me play, but it's another switch I turn on, you know. I can get mean, I can be a very vicious bear instead of a cuddly one.
Was that question something you heard throughout the interview process at the combine?
Maybe they thought I was too laid back, I don't know, but I just like being laid back and friendly and a cute person, but like I said I can be mean when it's time to. I just be myself, I'm not changing for anybody.
Are you planning to revive and keep Chocolate News going at the next level?
Oh god, I actually don't know, it could be a possibility. I couldn't do it last semester because I had a lot of class and a lot of stuff going on, but that's something I gotta figure out, gotta work on, so it possibly could happen.
I imagine there a ton of people who would like to see you go through the process of getting used to the next level.
Yeah, I kind of got down, because a lot of people did want to see what I was doing in Indy.
I wanted to, but classes and whatnot, being busy. We'll see what happens.
Let's talk about Notre Dame a bit. Has it hit you that the college experience is over? Do you miss South Bend?
Of course I miss it, it's a great school, great university, great coaches, I've missed coach Kelly and all the other coaches -- like coach Elston, all the guys. Even the GAs, the equipment staff, just all those guys -- especially my teammates and guys I played with. I'm going to miss them especially.
You went through all those months grinding it out in the summer. Doing Camp Kelly early in the morning while it's cold outside, even though you might not miss those moments. It was fun while it lasted, but at some point you have to move on.
At the same time I'm still staying in touch with everybody, so it's all fun. I just wish them the best.
What do you think you'll miss most?
I think the one thing I'll miss most is those Saturdays. Notre Dame Stadium is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, just the fans, how many reps did you win each game, our fans how they have faith in you through the game, our students ... it was just a family, I miss that a lot, making those bonds. I just wish the best for anybody that goes there because it's a great university and ... I'm just going to miss it.
What do you think you'll miss the least?
Aww, waking up for class, I'll probably miss that the least. Obviously you had to go to class, but me I'm just one of those guys where the alarm goes off and I just want to go back to sleep. [laughs] I'm not a morning person, you know.
So what's the next step in the process? What do you want to improve on now?
Right now just preparation, and my technique and my game. You can never do too much in preparation for your game, overall. I'm just still in the process, getting better as a defensive tackle overall.
Is there a particular facet of your game that you want to improve? Your get-off? Your hands?
I think I have a decent get-off, okay get-off, but I work on that, to where my get-off is consistent, and my hands are consistent, and my pass rush is consistent, and my run stopping is consistent. I just want to be an overall player, I don't want people thinking I'm one-dimensional.
Maybe they can think it, maybe I want them to think it so that when I actually come out and I'm able to get to the quarterback, or stop the run, or get on offense and run the ball as a fullback or something. I want to show that I'm versatile, and that's what I want to up my game to.
It's a lot to talk about, but I actually want to go out and do it. So I'm here, preparing, trying to get myself right. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't, but if it does I'll know that I worked for it.
You're going up against a talented group of defensive tackles. Is there anything that separates you from the pack? Is there anything that makes Louis Nix a step above the rest?
Louis Nix is Louis Nix, I don't put myself up against anybody, or compare myself to anybody or say I'm better than anybody. I just do me. My personality, the way I am as a person speaks for itself.
I am going up with a great group of defensive tackles. You got guys like Tim Jernigan, he's basically close to where my hometown is, we went to camps and stuff together, he has been a great player this whole season, won a national championship, I'm happy for him. I got guys like Aaron Donald, he's training with me right now, running 4.6, 35 reps of 225; they just motivate me to be better.
These guys, they have so much to their game, not one of us is just the best we can be. So they push themselves to be the best, and I push myself to be the best, that's all I can say for them. I don't think I'm lightyears away from where they are. All I'm trying to say is that we're trying to get better.
Looking forward to the NFL, is there one team you're hoping takes you on draft day?
I grew up loving the Jacksonville Jaguars, my hometown team. I rooted for them no matter what growing up, but now at this point, it's whatever. I don't care where I go, honestly, I don't care what round, I don't care when. I just want to get drafted and have the opportunity to showcase myself as a player and as a person and do the best I can.
Would you be excited about going to the Jags for that reason, for having grown up in Jacksonville?
Regardless of where I go, it will be special to me. I wouldn't be more excited if the Jets picked me up and the Jaguars didn't, or the Jags picked me up and the Jets didn't. It wouldn't matter to me, I'm going to be excited no matter what.
In terms of players, is there anyone you look up to in the league right now or as a kid?
I was a Miami Hurricanes fan and always watched Vince Wilfork. I enjoyed watching him play, or any big guy who could move. So it's Vince Wilfork, but it's any big guy, you know, I root for the big guys.
So say it's all done, and you're out of the league after 20-30 years. What do you want to do after football?
I don't know. I'm trying to go out to California and take a tour of the NFL Network studios, because I do want to deal with working with cameras, or working behind cameras or in front of cameras. If I get a chance I want to get an internship somewhere to do something -- a local news station, digital editing company, something like that -- because I still want to do what I went to school for.
Before we go, anything to add?
Just a shoutout to any Notre Dame fans or any fan of Irish Chocolate fans who supported me through my whole career, and people that accepted me for me and never looked the other way, and accepted my personality for what it was.
This might be a heavy question, but did you ever feel your personality wasn't accepted?
I don't know, I always think that, like maybe people do? But when it's go time it's go time for me.
If people do think I'm too loose, that's not my business. They can think what they want. I don't too much care what people think, as long as I'm doing my job and doing what's right by me and I'm not going out doing nothing crazy, I want to continue to be myself and be me.
Thanks for talking to me. Sorry for the technical difficulty earlier, I didn't mean to keep you waiting.
Oh! it's good man. It's probably my fault. Sprint sucks!