As a freshman with the Colorado football team in 2017, receiver KD Nixon reasoned that the harder he worked on the field, the better he would get.
During some of those extra sessions on the Buffaloes’ indoor practice field, Nixon would see running back Phillip Lindsay in the trainer’s room.
“Phil used to laugh and be like, ‘Bro, why are you working so hard?’ I was like, ‘I’m trying to be just like you and go to the NFL,’” Nixon said of his former teammate and current Denver Broncos star. “Crazy thing is, I see why he was in the training room more than the indoor (field).”
Lindsay was well known for his relentless effort in taking care of body, through stretching, yoga and hours of recovery. He worked hard, but knew the value of keeping his body healthy.
Nixon is beginning to understand that, as well.
“Now, I’m in the training room more than the indoor,” he said. “I spend at least three hours a day in the training room: going to the weight room, getting stretched by the strength coaches, going to rehab.
“There’s a lot that goes into it. As a freshman and sophomore, you don’t see that. You just want to play football: I want to get my name on the board, I want to make 1,000 yards, score a lot of touchdowns and put it on for Colorado. Now, as you become a junior, you see what you need to do. Everything happens for a reason and I’m just blessed to finally catch onto it now in my junior year.”
Nixon is one of the top returning receivers in the Pac-12, having caught 52 passes for 636 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, but the 5-foot-8, 185-pound speedster from DeSoto, Texas, comes into this season with a much different mindset.
He now views football like his job. While he has always been blessed with talent, he’s realizing it’s more than that. In addition to taking better care of his body, he remained in Boulder for the summer to train and even said he’s decided to “leave girls alone” so he can concentrate on the game.
“That’s a big upgrade in maturity in me being able to stay focused on football,” he said. “That’s all I need right now.”
That focus helped him pass the Buffs’ pre-camp conditioning test for the first time.
“Freshman year you just come in and want to play football,” he said. “Now you understand that the summer conditioning is going to pay off in fall camp.”
Beyond his individual preparation, Nixon has taken to heart the coaches’ demand for receivers to be blockers when they aren’t getting the ball.
“If you don’t block, you’re not playing,” Nixon said. “You ain’t got a choice. I want to work on being a better blocker, being a complete receiver.”
While aiming to improve his own game, Nixon has a broader perspective this season. Head coach Mel Tucker praised Nixon on Friday for the leadership he has displayed during the first couple days of preseason camp.
“The older guys have really stepped up and embraced the younger guys and are starting to step up as leaders,” Tucker said. “For example, today in our punt drill, KD was very helpful with the young guys who were gunners. He helped those guys get lined up, made sure they had the right split, made sure they were in and out of the huddle and then he took his reps, as well. It was extra effort on his part to be a leader, but he knows how important it is; he’s in shape and he’s got energy. That’s what we have to have from our veteran players. That’s very good to see.
“I’m proud of KD for that and all of our older guys that are stepping up and leading for us.”
Entering his third season with the Buffs, Nixon is realizing the value of being a leader and a complete player and how that can pay off with team success.
“(Preseason camp) is the hard part and then pay day comes Aug. 30 when the season hits,” he said, referring to the season opener against Colorado State. “We just have to get through this fall camp, take it one day at a time, keep pushing each other and we’re going to have a great season.”