Ohio State offers star Georgia freshman
How many high school freshmen can claim to have offers from two of the last four programs to appear in the National Championship Game? That’s something Roswell (Ga.) Centennial wide receiver Julian Nixon had achieved as a 14-year-old, landing offers from Georgia and Ohio State almost completely out of the blue on Jan. 12 and Feb. 8, respectively. Nixon is one of just four freshmen to land Ohio State offers nationally.
It wasn’t like Nixon’s rise was completely improbable. When you’re a 6-foot-4, 205-pound freshman who posts 1,071 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns in Georgia 6A football (second-largest classification in the state), it’s clear that your career is bound for a meteoric rise. There’s been a refrain in the Nixon household passed on to Julian from his parents: It’s not about whether you make it college, it’s about getting your degree once you arrive. Not even that mentality can fully prepare a kid for the reality of big-time recruiting, though.
“Surreal is a good word. We’re big-time college football fans and we watch a lot of the sport. To hear that some of the most storied programs in college football think that you have the ability to play for them at such a young age is kind of mind blowing,” said Reginald Nixon, Julian’s father. “Especially when you think about all of the work that a lot of other athletes have to put in to receive that kind of attention. It humbles you and makes you understand that God has blessed you with a talent.”
Nixon has tried to remain humble and grounded through the early attention and has set himself to constantly work, improve and prepare.
“It’s been pretty cool, but I haven’t thought about it too much. I’m young. Having two offers from two of the best teams in the country is pretty big, but I just don’t want to let anyone catch me,” Nixon said. “I just want to keep working hard. Next year, I want over 1,000 receiving yards and maybe double-digit touchdowns. I just want to help my team win and go further and deeper into the playoffs.”
Recruiting takes Julian Nixon by surprise
High-level college football recruiting took Nixon by surprise. Although the University of Georgia’s campus is about 60 miles from Centennial, Nixon’s father says the high school had not seen a visit from a Bulldogs coach for the better part of a decade. For a Georgia coach to arrive at Nixon’s high school unannounced and leave the freshman with an offer, shortly after the Dawgs played for a national championship in Atlanta, left quite an impression.
“That Georgia offer was big, no doubt. We’re in the heart of Bulldog Country. Our home is less than an hour from Georgia’s campus and everybody around here is red and black. They were just in the National Championship Game before they offered, so everything around here was on fire,” Nixon’s father said.
“Mercedes-Benz Stadium is just 20 minutes from our home. To see a Georgia coach walk through our halls and for everybody to hear what had happened, it blew the top off. For the first one to come and for the first one to come from them out of nowhere? Not to mention that Georgia hadn’t been to Centennial since Andrew Luck was playing at Stanford, it was a pretty big deal when they came through.”
As his father noted, the Nixon family is full of college football fans. Father and son rope mother and daughter into watching with them every Saturday, primarily Nixon’s father’s alma mater, Auburn. The freshman standout has had plenty of time to observe both of his early interests on television.
“I like Georgia because they play fast and they like to hit. They’re really physical as a program. They’re great at recruiting, the campus is nice, everyone there is nice, and it’s just a good place to be,” Nixon said. “I don’t know much about Ohio State yet, to be honest, but I do watch a lot of videos of them with how they work out. The way they work in the offseason is pretty nice. I like their uniforms, and their facilities are really nice as well. Their stadium is pretty huge.”
Nixon’s father has had a much more personal experience with Ohio State. Although Nixon is growing up in the heart of the South watching Auburn and Georgia, his father spent the first 10 years of his life in Ohio. The Cincinnati-area native says his son’s offer from the Buckeyes took him back to his roots.
“With it being my home and what I knew growing up, it takes me back to those days. You know, Julian was born in Alabama, but Ohio is my home,” he said. “It takes me back to the days of Pepper Johnson, Keith Byars and Cris Carter.
“Those are my earliest memories of Ohio State football and that’s pretty much what I know about the university itself. I’ve never actually been to Ohio State’s campus. I know that it’s a strong academic institution and I know that they play good football.”
Julian Nixon’s quest for improvement
It’s incredibly early in Nixon’s recruitment. As his family has pointed out, he has three more years of high school. His recruitment process can’t take priority over his school work or football preparation. Nixon’s father is on the staff at Centennial as an offensive line coach and he’s stayed on top of his son throughout his development.
“We’ve had a star freshman on the team for the last seven years,” he said. “We kind of expect one of our freshman players to be able to step up and play for us and he happened to be the one who did it for us this year. There’s a difference between being able to play and being able to stand out. He didn’t have to be the No. 1 option. We had a 1,400-yard all-state receiver. We had a 1,300-yard back who signed with The Citadel. Our receiver signed with West Georgia. Our quarterback was second-team all-state and he’s coming back. So we had a lot of good players around him, so the pressure was taken off so could play a role.
“He’s taken to it very well. He makes very few mistakes, but when he does he learns from them. He has very good ball skills and catches the ball away from his body almost every time. It’s natural to him. He’s one of those players who can go and get the football over people. His blocking, too — you know, a lot of receivers don’t like to block. I told him, ‘Son, as big as you are, you just need to get your hands on them and you can run them into the ground.’ So we ask to do that because it sets the tone for our offense. But now, we’re going to ask Julian to take the spot of one of the best receivers who’s ever played for our program. His leadership is something that I’m going to expect him to get better in because when things get tough, we’re going to have to go to Julian Nixon and he’s going to have to handle the pressures that come with it.”
Julian’s dad said he needs to be more explosive going for the ball and work on his hand strength.
“I need his route running to get better, I need him to get more explosive in and out of his breaks,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Julian is playing receiver in organized football for the first time in his life. He always played quarterback for our middle school team because he was the most athletic. What he’s doing in this last season is mostly raw. He’s got a lot of room to grow and improve.”
It’s far too early to pigeonhole Nixon into any one school or position. However, we can expect nothing but excellence from this young star as he continues growing. Ohio State is one of the first programs involved with Nixon, but expect the star freshman from Georgia to collect offers from most of the blue-blood programs in America.