The freshman quarterback was conducting his first press conference in Sewell Hall, Auburn’s old athletic dorm (back when there was such a thing). He was smart, confident, and much more athletic looking than we had expected of a scarcely publicized recruit from Etowah High School.
There was no quarterback competition then. Stan White was entrenched as the third-year starter. But we all left that media day thoroughly impressed with Patrick Nix.
That was 27 years ago. Now, Patrick Nix is coaching high school football. His starting quarterback from last season — who just happens to be his son Bo Nix — has been named Auburn’s starting quarterback. To hear Bo Nix speak, it’s very clear that the son has much more in common with his dad than their love for Auburn. He is smart and confident and handled his big moment with the maturity of a senior.
Where have we seen this before?
“Obviously, it’s a dream come true,” Bo Nix said. “I’ve always wanted to play quarterback at Auburn. It’s a goal I’ve had for a long, long time — as far as I can remember. All the way back to throwing the football in the backyard with my dad. I wanted to play quarterback at Auburn. It was just an awesome moment. You honestly couldn’t write it any better.”
As expected, Patrick Nix played sparingly behind White. That is, until White was injured in the second half against Alabama. David Housel, the retired sports information director and athletic director, told the story better than anyone in this Facebook post:
In 1993, with Auburn trailing Alabama 14-5 in the third quarter, Patrick Nix replaced injured quarterback Stan White and, without so much as throwing a single warmup pass, threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Frank Sanders on fourth and 15 from the Alabama 35. Without so much as a single warmup toss.
The pass didn’t win the game—Alabama still led 14-12-but the tone and focus of the game had changed. The hunted had become the hunter.
With the elder Nix at quarterback, Auburn became the aggressor and won 22-14 to cap off a highly improbable and unexpected undefeated season, the “11 and Ohhhhhh” season.
Years later in one of those Auburn football family reunion videos, Patrick, who grew up an Auburn fan, was asked about the play.
“People said I threw that pass without practicing. That’s not true. I’d been practicing that pass all my life.
“It was the last pass I threw every day at practice or in the backyard before going in for supper. It was always the last pass, the pass that beat Alabama. I’d been practicing that pass all my life...”
So when Bo Nix steps into the huddle for the first time in a game Saturday against Oregon, it will be a moment for which he has prepared with countless reps. Shortly after meeting with head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, Bo Nix was allowed a moment to call his dad and deliver the big news before it was announced to the public.
“He was just proud of me. Couldn’t talk to him long because I had some business to take care of as far as practice and stuff. But, yessir, I did tell him, and he was very excited,” Bo Nix said.
Much has changed. Well, pretty much everything has changed. Offenses. Recruiting hype. The postseason. Expectations.
Something else that has changed is coaches’ willingness to start a true freshman at quarterback. Early enrollment has made that more practical. Nix will be the first true freshman to start at quarterback in the season opener since 1946.
Nix sounded confident that he’s ready.
“From spring to fall camp, I got a lot better understanding the playbook and knowing what was going on at practice, things like that. Knowing how Coach Malzahn called plays, all that stuff,” Bo Nix said. “But realistically, I just learned my receivers better throughout the summer. I was able to throw to them more and more and understand timing and the way they ran and caught the ball. Everyone is different. Every receiver is unique. Just time helped me throughout spring practice to fall camp.”
The kid throwing game-winning touchdown passes in his backyard is thoroughly prepared. Now, whether his first receiver is prepared to handle the inevitable rush of emotions, well, that’s another matter. Coming off the bench in the Iron Bowl is one thing, watching your kid fulfill a shared lifelong dream is something special.