Nix: 'If it's a dream, it won't die'

Roosevelt Nix's eyes never turned away, they never lost focus, never once strayed as he pedaled on an exercise bike, his eyes fixated on the path he was taking on the video screen in front of him.

And it wasn't a surprise. Because Nix is a guy who never lost focus on the NFL, never let his path to the NFL go astray either, making sure his dream would never die, no matter how much it seemed like it would.

Flashback to 2014, when Nix was a rookie free agent trying to catch on with the Atlanta Falcons as a fullback, a position he never played before. He had high hopes, but hopes that were soon dashed in the most public way possible … on national television.

The Falcons were the team featured that season on HBO's Hard Knocks, following every step of what a team goes through. That included being there when Nix went into Coach Mike Smith's office and was told he was being waived.

"I was the first person gone that season," recalled Nix. "Hard Knocks tells it all. They weren't in the room when I was cut, but they had cameras set up in there. To see yourself get cut brings back a dark place."

Nix said it was hard for everyone close to him to see if happen that way, from friends and family, but nobody more than his mother Lisa.

"Everybody who watches football, watches that show," said Nix. "When my mom saw Hard Knocks when I got cut, she couldn't finish watching the episode. She was crying."

Getting released left Nix in doubt of what his future would be. Would another football opportunity ever arise, would he get a second chance? Or would this be it? For a while, it looked like the later.

"When you get cut you don't know," said Nix. "You think I could never play football again because opportunities are so slim. I tried to stay positive all of the time."

Nix looked at options outside of football. First, was the Columbus Police Academy, something he thought might provide a solid future, but wasn't the right path. He was close to playing in the Arena League with the Cleveland Gladiators, but never did. He spent time as a teaching assistant at his alma mater, Reynoldsburg High School, keeping students on the right path while he too stayed on it. 

"Part of what I was doing was working with kids who needed that kind of encouragement," said Nix. "I was trying to be a role model to those kids. That position also allowed me to train. It was easier for my schedule, for football, if I did get the call again. I didn't want to give that dream up."

The dream didn't happen overnight, though. There were some tough times, times when he just waited for his phone to ring but it was silent.

"There were days I woke up and was like I don't know why I am working out, I am probably not going to get a call today," said Nix. "But I still did it. My family was a big support system. They were the true people that never gave up. There were times they wanted it more than me. I just fed off their energy. They are the only reason why I made it."

The dream finally started to become more of a reality when Nix got a call from the Steelers last January to sign a reserve/futures contract after sitting out the entire 2014 season. The college defensive end though was signed to play linebacker. Something that was fine with him given the size of defensive linemen in the NFL and he was only 5-11, 248.

"I just look at it as a blessing," said Nix. "I was home for an entire season, not getting any phone calls. You are watching all of your friends do good things on the field and knowing the opportunity doesn't always come once, let alone twice to people.  I was happy I stayed true to it."

Before Nix had a chance to get comfortable at linebacker, another position change came about. The Steelers needed a fullback in rookie minicamp, and Nix made the change. After only doing it for a short stint in Atlanta, and it not working out, he was a bit concerned but he never hesitated.

"I was like okay, here we go again," said Nix. "I never did it before so I didn't know. I had lost about 30 pounds to go to linebacker, and most linebackers and fullbacks are about the same size. Just being athletic helped. I got some great coaching from Coach (James) Saxon and Coach (Mike) Tomlin. They were real patient with me. I appreciated them for that."

And the coaches appreciated Nix's effort, and what he was capable of doing on offense and special teams. So much so that when cut down day came around last year, there was nothing but good news for Nix when he made the 53-man roster.

He had a strong first year as a blocking back, getting limited touches of the ball but contributing on special teams as well. It was a learning experience for him, especially learning how to play offense.

"Learning the offense was the biggest challenge," said Nix. "The things you have to do, the adjustments took a long time for me. I am learning it every day. Even people who have played the position for life don't know everything. You can get better and learn every day."

Nix, who finished the season on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury against the Ravens on Dec. 27, said that his recovery is going well and he just has to keep staying focused, because he knows right now he is living his dream and he won't let that slip away.

"If it's a dream, it won't die," said Nix. "I knew I wanted to play football. I didn't know when it was going to happen, or how. But it's a dream and it will never die."

And with that, he continued to pedal. Never once blinking or taking his eyes off the path.

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