All’s well that ends well. That’s the old saying. For Roosevelt Nix, all is certainly well. He earned a roster spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers, then a starting spot, and now, a trip to the Pro Bowl. A far cry from a few years ago when he was an undersized defensive tackle at Kent State.
But naturally, a position switch is a nerve-wracking experience. The NFL chewed him up and spit him out early on. The Atlanta Falcons wanted him to become a fullback. He tried but failed, becoming the first player cut out of camp, all captured on Hard Knocks.
Pittsburgh wound up signing him and wanted to move him to – and I honestly forgot about this until today – inside linebacker. That’s where he originally showed up, including in this Bob Labriola article in 2015 when Nix was nothing but a blip on the radar.
Nix began his college career at Kent State as a 5-foot-10, 237 pound defensive lineman, and as a freshman he had 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and four forced fumbles to become the only freshman to win the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award. Too small for the defensive line in the NFL, Nix will try to learn a new position with the Steelers. He will be 23 on March 30.”
But with the position full, the Steelers quickly changed their minds and decided to put Nix back at fullback. Having gone down that path before, with terrible results, Nix was understandably nervous. We know this from a short anecdote former Steelers’ safety Alden Darby shared yesterday on Nix’s photo of him in his Pro Bowl uniform.
If you can’t read it, Darby writes: “You: ‘man Darb they moving me to fullback they wanna cut me bro.’ Me: ‘nah bro that means they got a plan for you. You gone be good trust me.’ Years later…PRO BOWL !! Congrats bro. Well deserved.”
Nix’s fears were understood. Fullback is not a popular position, not then, not now, and the Steelers had an established player with Will Johnson. Heading into camp, he seemingly had no chance to stick. But his tenacity and impressive play on special teams compelled the Steelers to keep two fullbacks and soon enough, he established himself as an excellent strong blocker in the offense.
For as ugly as the NFL can be, stories like Nix’s is what makes it great. The longest of odds, defying them, even when it was clear even he didn’t think there was a chance.
It’s not a huge deal, and you can tell where starting to settle into the offseason, but it was a look behind-the-veil we don’t often get to see. And all the more reason to celebrate Nix’s success.