SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III loves to make people smile and enjoys a good laugh himself.
The 6-foot-2, 349-pound senior says that is why he wore sweatpants and a jacket during pregame warm ups before the Pittsburgh game, hoping to fool the media into thinking he wouldn't be playing. He is a guy who loves to play with people, so it's hard to tell whether he is serious when he says he is not sure whether it will be his last game at Notre Dame Stadium when the Fighting Irish (7-3) host BYU (7-3) on Saturday.
"It's something to think about. I love this place. Who wouldn't want to come back for a fifth year at Notre Dame?" said Nix, who has a year of eligibility left. "It's something to look at. Who knows?"
Asked by a reporter if he was playing with the media again, Nix, who has been projected as a likely first-round pick, said he wasn't.
"I'm not messing with you. Half of you thought I was leaving last year," he said.
Nix has been a bit of a puzzle from the start. He was the first player to commit to Notre Dame after Charlie Weis was fired as coach, but did so before Brian Kelly was hired. It's not often players commit to a team without a head coach. Nix said at first Kelly didn't know what to make of "this big, jolly guy always hugging me and stuff."
Kelly doesn't think anyone has figured Nix out, although he said Nix knew what Notre Dame could do for him.
"Don't let Louis fool you. He can come off as funny and aloof, but he's very smart. He knows what he wants. He wanted a degree from Notre Dame, and he understood what that was going to get him and set him up for the rest of his life," Kelly said. "He knew the platform that he was going to play on here at Notre Dame and the exposure. Look, everybody's dream when you come to Notre Dame is get a degree, play for a championship and go to the NFL. He's checked all those boxes."
Nix, who has 14 siblings or half-siblings, didn't have the easiest life growing up in Jacksonville, Fla. An older brother was murdered in 2006, and the high school he attended had its evening football games moved to the afternoon after two students were shot leaving a game when Nix was a sophomore. Nix said family and friends pushed him to do the right thing and keep work at getting better. He said that continued when he arrived on campus.
"People at Notre Dame, even the teachers, they didn't make work easier for me," he said. "But they helped me adjust. They showed me ways to improve myself and write a better paper, better study habits. You have a writing center to help you. I think that helped me build a foundation to where I am now. I'm making it."
Nix didn't play as a freshman because Irish coaches didn't think he had the stamina and he battled homesickness. He began emerging as a sophomore, starting 11 games and finishing with 45 tackles. He became a force as a junior, frequently taking on double teams and was a key player for a defense that led the Irish to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the national championship game against Alabama.
Nix has 27 tackles this season through eight games after sitting out against Air Force and Navy with tendinitis and a meniscus tear in his left knee that will require surgery after the season. The defensive line was expected to be a strength, but has been hobbled by injuries.
Nix said the tendinitis problem began for him against the Crimson Tide and was aggravated a month ago against USC.
"That's something that bothers me all the time. Sometimes you can't even sit in class, you have to stand up because your knee can't be at a 90-degree angle because you always have to move it," he said.
He still managed to play 63 snaps against Pitt, finishing with five tackles and two quarterback hurries.
Nix is looking forward to Saturday. He said his mother who couldn't afford to take time off work for his senior day in high school will be there, as will his father, who will be attending his first game at Notre Dame.
As for the future, Nix is certain about one thing.
"I just keep pushing forward and make life happy. I like to make people happy," he said. "I just like to make people smile and smile myself."