With a three-star ranking and a spot on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's list of Pennsylvania's Top 30 football prospects, Anthony Nixon was a well-known commodity heading into his senior season. So how did the Maryland commitment handle his high-profile status this fall?
“He lived up to everything he was supposed to be,” said Terry Totten, Nixon’s coach at Pittsburgh Central Catholic. “He was fantastic. A great football player.”
Nixon, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety and wide receiver, was a versatile performer all season long for the Vikings. Totten’s strategy for maximizing the future Terp’s contributions was simple: “We leave him out there as much as we can,” the coach said.
Nixon, who also returned kicks for PCC, formed a dynamic pass-catch duo with Maryland quarterback commitment Perry Hills. In the Vikings’ season opener against Archbishop Wood, the Terps recruits hooked up for a 33-yard touchdown that proved to be the difference in PCC’s 20-17 win. One week later, Nixon caught touchdown passes of 43 and 37 yards. Stopping Nixon in the passing game usually proved a fruitless effort for opposing defenses.
“He runs great routes, has fantastic hands [and] is a really good blocker,” Totten said. “He's a complete guy.”
On defense, Nixon started for PCC at free safety, giving the Vikings an imposing, physical presence in the secondary. Totten said he occasionally dropped Nixon into the box, but the Maryland-bound athlete mostly roamed free as Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s last line of defense. It was a role Nixon flourished in.
“He's very athletic, he's very fast, he's a hitter, a good tackler, and he knows where he's supposed to be,” Totten said. “He's very competitive. He's the whole deal.”
Thanks in large part to Nixon, the Vikings outscored their opponents 410-133 and finished the 2011 season with an 11-1 record. Nixon’s high school career ended with a loss to Upper St. Clair in a Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Class AAAA semifinal. Totten said Nixon finished his senior season with around 30 catches for 11 touchdowns, 45 tackles (30 solo), seven pass breakups and three interceptions.
Totten said he has always been impressed with Nixon’s work ethic and competiveness. And physically, the Pittsburgh Central Catholic coach hasn't seen many better than Nixon.
“He's a big enough kid and is going to get bigger,” Totten said. “He's a very young senior. He has the speed, he has the footwork, the ball skills. He's a very aggressive tackler.”
Maryland’s secondary next season returns safeties Matt Robinson, Eric Franklin, A.J. Hendy, while Titus Till will reportedly transfer to James Madison. Totten said he thinks the Terps coaching staff expects Nixon to “compete in the secondary right away.”
“I think that's a distinct possibility,” Totten said. “It's a grind at that level and there's a lot of good talent coming in, but I think he has a chance to contribute right away.”