No. 19 CU (5-0) at USC (3-2)
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum
TV/Radio: Fox Sports 1/ 850 AM
KD Nixon sped down the sidelines, reached out and snagged the ball in stride.
The 46-yard touchdown catch — during the first quarter of Colorado's opener on Aug. 31 against Colorado State — looked almost effortless for the 5-foot-8, 185-pound sophomore.
It was the first big play of Nixon's college career, and proved why he could be one of the top weapons for the No. 19-rankd Buffaloes (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) for years to come.
"I like having the ball in my hands," he said. "I consider myself a playmaker, so whether it's as a running back, receiver, kick returner, punt returner, I just like having the ball in my hands."
For Nixon, 19, making plays on the field has always been about more than just creating a highlight reel, though. The game has given him stability over the years.
"Football changed my life," he said.
That's not an exaggeration from the Texas native, who starred at DeSoto High School before coming to CU a year ago as a true freshman.
Nixon is one of 14 children in his family, but had a tumultuous home life and spent much of his youth leaning on coaches who saw not only his talent, but his potential to shine as a young man.
"We all have a different story," he said. "I wasn't very fortunate, so coaches took me in, helped me.
"Parents, they tried their best, but sometimes it's not the best for you. When coaches took me in, you have to learn from the outside. You have to see how it is to be raised with a family, how to treat a wife, how to treat a lady, how to open the door for somebody. I was never taught that until coaches took me in. It was challenging, but it's life."
Nixon didn't go into great detail about the struggles he had, but said that from an early age, he had coaches keeping him on the right path.
"Every stage has been a different coach that stepped in and said, 'Hey, let me help you,'" he said. "I could have taken the bad road. I grew up in the hood, with drugs. I have a hard story, but every coach has took the time to say , 'Hey go this way; don't follow this way.' I'm thankful that God blessed me with these people because they didn't have to do that.
"Coaches and their wives, they took the time out of their day to teach me and provide for me, so I will always be thankful for that."
Nobody has helped more than his uncle, Bert Jynes, who opened his home when Nixon was in high school. Jynes' son, and Nixon's cousin, is current CU freshman offensive lineman Josh Jynes.
Living with the Jynes family prepared Nixon for his time at CU.
"(Bert's) family took me in at a time when I could have self-destructed, and ever since then my life has been rising up," Nixon said. "I'm just happy for that. I tell him every week I love him. They come up to every game, they make me happy, they provide for me. They always have my back."
Nixon hasn't always had that family feel in his life, but has become a remarkably loyal Buffalo. He is close with Josh Jynes and fellow football star Laviska Shenault — his longtime friend and former DeSoto teammate — but it's common to see Nixon attending a variety of CU sporting events, including volleyball, women's soccer and basketball, to cheer on his fellow student-athletes.
"I never had a close, close family, so I picture Colorado as my family," Nixon said. "You don't get this (time in life) back. You've got to take advantage of it. God blessed me with this opportunity to have a scholarship, so I'm going to use it all to my advantage."
In recruiting Nixon, CU's football coaches recognized his outgoing personality — "He lights the room up when he walks in," head coach Mike MacIntyre said — and confidence, but also his need for a good support system in Boulder.
"Coaches have played an important role to him in his life with the way he's had to grow up," MacIntyre said. "Coaches have played a bigger role than most coaches do, and I think that (co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini) has done a great job with him in that fact.
"(Nixon) has been accepted here and loves the area and has made a lot of friends, not only on the football team but off the football team."
Although not as close with his siblings and family as he would like, Nixon said he hopes that changes in the future.
"At the moment, I'm trying to make them happy on TV," he said.
So far this season, it has been Shenault stealing the headlines as the nation's leading receiver. Nixon is having a good season, as well, but admits he wishes he could get the ball in his hands more often.
Football, has provided too much for him to get discouraged, though. His energy and passion drives him, and when those big plays happen, they validate all the work that he and others around him have done to keep him focused .
"Football is the ultimate life game changer," he said.
"You just try to contribute in everything you do. You just try to keep pushing because you know one day it's going to pay off."