By Tyler Devine
Daviyon Nixon’s rise to stardom received an extra boost on Saturday with the junior defensive lineman scoring the first touchdown of his life in spectacular fashion.
Nixon’s 71-yard interception return touchdown with less than two minutes left sealed a 41-21 win over Penn State on Saturday.
During the return, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Nixon used a Euro step move typically seen on the basketball court to get past Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford and an offensive lineman on his way to the end zone.
“My first mindset was to run through the quarterback,” Nixon said. “But I saw that the right tackle was closer to me, so I’m like ‘I’ve got to go score’. If I get the ball in my hands, my first thing is I want to put it in the end zone, so that’s what I did.”
After playing at Iowa Western in 2017 and redshirting in 2018, Nixon played in all 13 games last season before becoming one of Iowa’s key defensive contributors and playing at an All-Big Ten level this season.
The Kenosha, Wis., native leads Iowa with 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said this week that Nixon recently had a brief stint at scout team quarterback during practice, which is just one of many stories of Nixon’s athletic prowess, according to senior linebacker Nick Niemann.
“I don’t know if you guys have until about midnight but that’s about how long it would take to tell all those stories,” Niemann said. “That was a great play by him. I was kind of watching from the back, and I just saw him take off. He’s one of the better athletes on our team. I wasn’t catching up to him, but it was a great play and I’m happy he made it. He’s always got a nose for the ball and making impact plays like that.”
Sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras said after the game that he was yelling from the sidelines for Nixon to fall to the ground so Iowa could run the clock out, but Petras’ words fell on deaf ears.
“I didn’t even hear anyone say get down,” Nixon said. “I just knew that once I had the ball in my mind I was going to the end zone. That was my goal. I had to score.”
Head coach Kirk Ferentz praised Nixon after Saturday’s game, but doesn’t want Nixon to rest on his laurels.
“It was a really impressive play by an impressive football player,” Ferentz said. “The bad news is we’re probably going to be hearing about this for a month, if not longer. That’s going to be very difficult. Daviyon’s been playing really well. I talked about the line a minute ago, just the improvement they’ve been making. Daviyon’s a big part of that. Playing really well, got a great energy out on the field, just really proud of his growth and development.
“Boy, you talk about a big play. That was a big play. That’s an impressive play for a big man like that, physically.”