Shaun Nixon made up his mind in the morning as the Cavaliers athletic period came to a close Nov. 29.
The 5-9 ½ , 185-pound junior running back gave a verbal commitment to Texas A&M University to play football after he graduates from Lake Travis in 2013.
Nixon came onto the scene last year and helped the Cavaliers win the Class 4A state championship for a fifth straight season. Now, Nixon will be joining an Aggie team that has made headlines this season for its move to the SEC Conference and for its upset win over then-No. 1 Alabama, in which quarterback Johnny Manziel solidified his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy award (Manziel has been named one of three finalists for the top collegiate football award).
Texas A&M first gave Nixon an offer last year when he was a sophomore, and he has been keeping an eye on the Aggies ever since.
“They offered me sophomore year, and I just kept an eye on them and the recruiting process continued,” Nixon said. “It was the best opportunity out of the offers I had.”
After receiving offers from multiple schools, Nixon had whittled his choices down to Texas A&M and Texas Christian University, but an offer from the Horned Frogs never came, and it was easy for him to pick the Aggies from there. Nixon also had offers from Texas Tech, Baylor, SMU and Clemson, where former Lake Travis coach Chad Morris heads up the program.
Nixon phoned up Aggie running backs coach Clarence McKinney Thursday and gave his verbal commitment to join the team. Then, he reinforced his commitment on the phone with Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin later that night.
“(I think TCU) didn’t mean to not reply, I just got tired of waiting and went ahead and went with A&M,” Nixon said. “[Sumlin] was excited; they both were. He was just trying to make sure this is where I’m going to be. I told him I have no other second thoughts, no other schools. I told him A&M is all the way, I’m ready to come play.”
Lake Travis coach Hank Carter, who said he cannot recall a Lake Travis student-athlete going to Texas A&M in recent history, said Nixon also had interest from Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State among others. Former Lake Travis tight end Ryan White, who graduated from the high school in 2001, went on to play football at Texas A&M.
Sumlin and the Aggies are 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC, and the Aggies offense bears close semblance to the Cavaliers’ style.
“I feel like maybe that was the school that’s given him the most attention,” Carter said. “He got tons and tons of handwritten letters … It’s a pretty stressful decision for kids. The thing that was important to him was whenever he was offered he could see himself fitting in well. And it works for his family, his mother and father and being close and being able to come see him play.”
Nixon led the Cavaliers this year with 106 rushes for 756 yards and 11 scores on the ground, and he also had team-highs of 36 receptions and 437 yards and three receiving touchdowns, accounting for 1,193 yards and 14 total scores.
This year, Nixon became more involved in the passing attack but missed time during the season because of an injury. He worked his way back and was able to play in the bidistrict playoff game that Lake Travis lost to Pflugerville.
Nixon has decided to forego rejoining the basketball team this year after being a major part of the team during his sophomore season because he is still recuperating from a partial tear in his MCL. He is trying to get back to full strength – and then some – for the upcoming track season and 2013 football campaign, and may try to play hoops again next season.
The 18-year-old hopes to increase his speed and strength going forward, and said watching the Cavaliers play without him – especially in the district-deciding game against rival Westlake – was tough but it also gave him a new perspective as he’s never missed major time with injury before.
“I just want to heal up and let it get to 100 percent, and I’m almost there,” he said. “It was rough watching them play against Westlake. I really wanted to be a part of it. It’s fun watching Lake Travis play. We have a tricky offense, and to watch us prepare and work our offense was a sight to see. We have great team.”
Texas A&M was a major draw for Nixon for other reasons, too, such as the passionate fan base and the chance to go up against SEC competition, which is considered the toughest in the nation by many. On top of that, Nixon has a chance to step in and see playing time in a hurry at A&M.
When the Aggies beat Alabama, Nixon said his mind was pretty much made up.
“I’ve been to a couple of games. The fans over there are crazy; if you’ve ever been to one, you know what I’m talking about,” he said with a laugh. “It was when they beat ‘Bama, I knew they could compete in the SEC, and they almost beat LSU. I knew if I go there, since they’re new to the SEC, it wouldn’t be so bad. There are high recruiting classes at ‘Bama and LSU. They’re ridiculous. Going to A&M, I’ll have a chance to get on the field early.”
Born in Texas, Nixon lived in Pennsylvania for about six years before moving back to Texas. The Longhorns never presented Nixon with an offer, a change from many Lake Travis athletes that saw interest from Texas but not A&M in years’ past.
“The new staff at A&M, coach Sumlin’s staff, for whatever reason, have been a little more visible in this area,” Carter said. “In years past, we didn’t get a lot of attention from A&M, and maybe it was because we were sending so many guys to Texas.
“They’ve been on Shaun since the get-go. And it’s the same exact offensive system he’s been running here. It’s a great fit for him, great school, they’re playing well and look to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
Nixon added, “I guess they found something in me they liked and Texas didn’t.”
Dealing with losing for the first time on varsity after an undefeated campaign a year ago and five consecutive Class 4A title for the Cavs was challenging for Nixon and the entire program.
He’s already vowed to make sure Lake Travis gets back to the top in 2013.
“I learned that we’ve all got to unite as one, we can’t get complacent with things like practice,” Nixon said. “We’ve been doing this for five years straight and we don’t know how to lose. Next season we’ll have a little bit more fight than we did last year … We’ve got to get together and do this thing.”
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