This spring has been set up for KD Nixon to be a pass catching machine for the Colorado Buffaloes.
A junior receiver, Nixon has a senior, two-year starting quarterback in Steven Montez throwing to him. His good friend and CU's top receiver, Laviska Shenault, is out this spring as he recovers from an injury, leaving Nixon as the top threat.
Naturally, a recent conversation with the 5-foot-8, 185-pound speedster figured to focus on the big plays he's making with the ball. Yet, in more than eight minutes of talking, the charismatic Nixon never once mentioned a pass he's caught during the spring.
Instead, he wanted to talk about blocking.
"We love blocking," Nixon said, flashing a smile that's well known in Boulder by now. "The receivers last year, we didn't like blocking. We were just like, 'Give me the ball.' Now, you really fall in love with it and see that it's a process."
Last season, Nixon finished second on the team to Shenault with 52 catches for 636 yards and four touchdowns. In reviewing his season, however, Nixon has studied film with receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini and graduate assistant Cordae Hankton and had his eyes opened to the beauty of blocking.
"As a receiver, you don't think that because you just want the ball," Nixon said. "But if you block hard, that's going to get a defense scared. The (defensive back) is going to be like, 'I don't know if he's going to block me or run deep.'
"For me, I like to be a complete receiver. That's one thing I want to get better on. I can go back and watch film and correct myself. The Nebraska game, I missed three blocks."
During CU's resurgent season in 2016, when the Buffs went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South divisions, they were led by a group of receivers that took pride in blocking and actually competed for blocking points. That same attitude hasn't been there the past two years, but Chiaverini was pleased to hear about Nixon's comments.
"That's a lot of pride for a coach to hear that from their players," Chiaverini said. "That was something I always took pride in as a player. I think we're at a point again now where we've got a mature group of receivers that have been with me and now the light bulb is coming on for them to take the next step."
Chiaverini wasn't too surprised it was Nixon talking about blocking. Although just 20 years old and a true junior next season, Nixon has matured into a leader.
"He's been with me now going on three years and I've known that kid going on five or six years," Chiaverini said. "We have a really good relationship. He knows when I get on him what my expectations are for him, because I hold him in a high, high level for us here. He's taking that leadership role, too. I lean on KD for some of that leadership stuff within our group."
Part of Nixon's credibility as a leader comes from his production. With Shenault grabbing headlines last year, Nixon's explosiveness was often overlooked outside of Boulder, but he's become one of the best receivers in the Pac-12.
"People talk about Laviska being a superstar, which Laviska is a really good player, but KD Nixon is a really good football player," Chiaverini said. "I think people are going to see even more of that this year."
First-year CU head coach Mel Tucker is still getting familiar with his team, but it hasn't taken long for him to be impressed by Nixon.
"He brings a lot of juice to the field," Tucker said.
Chiaverini believes Nixon is a unique player because he's not the traditional, tall outside receiver, but has the versatility to move around the field.
"Here you get a kid that's built like a tailback that is probably a traditional slot in most systems that can go outside and you can't cover the kid," Chiaverini said.
Lining up in the slot or outside, catching the ball or blocking, or mentoring his teammates, Nixon plans to do it all.
"That's what is going to make me the best player I can be," he said.
For Nixon, the drive to become a complete receiver comes not only from maturity, but from his love for the new regime, led by Tucker.
"You can feel it that you're getting better and better every day," Nixon said. "I love it. It's really hard to explain, but the Mel Tucker era, it's a blessing."