‘Uncle Mike' Relishes Leadership Role

‘Uncle Mike' Relishes Leadership Role

He may only be a sophomore, but at 23 years old he's anything but your typical second- year player. When referring to Mike Nixon, his teammates have ditched the grandpa jokes for his newest nickname, Uncle Mike. The elder statesman of the Sun Devils is considered one of the team's leaders as he assists his fellow linebackers these days in spring practice.

"If you know what you're doing out there and guys can ask you questions and you can help them out, then you're automatically in a leadership position," says Mike Nixon. Nonetheless, he too continues to improve and learn strategies with help from the new coaching staff.

"We're working on fewer things, but getting better at them," he states. "Last year we had a lot of things that maybe we weren't quite as good at and this year we're going to have four or five defenses that when we need to we can execute and make plays out of them."

Last spring Nixon walked-on after playing three years of minor league baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nixon, a former standout quarterback at local Sunnyslope High School, began his ASU career as a safety. Shortly after, the 6-3 232 Nixon established himself as a linebacker.

With major League Baseball's spring training taking place all over the valley last month, some may wonder if Nixon itched to resume his duties behind the plate as a catcher. Nixon contends that he has been busy running plays and conditioning, so he hasn't really considered it. "I'm happy with what I'm doing," he claims. "I keep in touch with a lot of my old teammates . . . I'm really happy to see them succeed and they cheer me on in the fall."

Influenced by his father and older brother, Nixon states he is glad he made the choice to return to his first love, football, but says playing minor ball day in and day out did provide him with a good work ethic to pass on to his younger teammates.

He has a positive outlook for the season ahead. Yet, as he and the defense go through spring practice, he emphasizes that nothing can compare to game situations. "Practice is good but once you're under the lights it's really a different game out there," he says.

He admits that sometimes the team thinks too much and makes mistakes, but they continue to work at eliminating errors and consistently playing well, both individually and as a team.

"We've got a lot of guys back on defense as well as offense. Right now they're [offense] on fire and if they keep that up it's going to be a good season," assures Nixon.

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