Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Joe Nixon doesn’t want you to think he had much to do with the good times in Spencer this year. The truth is he’s no ordinary Joe.
Coming into the season, it looked like North Rowan had its work cut out for it in its return to the 2A world. Before conference play started, Statesville and Davie County led a challenging non-conference schedule. The last two games against Thomasville and Salisbury figured to decide the Central Carolina Conference, and although North was much improved, few saw the Cavaliers being as dominant as they were.
Instead, Nixon, the CEO of Big Green Nation, constructed the winningest season in North history in just his second year. The unknown became a formality when seemingly every Friday, North overwhelmed opponents
Nixon always wants it to be about his players, but give the guy credit. His commitment to hard work and dedication to the North program have been instrumental in getting the Cavaliers from four wins in 2011 to eight wins last year and to 13 this season.
The Cavs outscored their opponents 551-190 in a 13-1 season, the most wins in school history for a single season.
All of a sudden, North was 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. The next week, Jareke Chambers broke a school record for touchdowns in a game and everyone was on the big green machine. But there was no complacency. Nixon told his team in the postgame huddle the only thing better than 5-0 was 6-0.
Nixon also has a legion of good assistants that confide in him, even if they’re 20 years older.
“It’s hard for a 50-year- old and a 30-year-old to be good friends, but that’s what we are,” North assistant Jeff Chapman said.
It’s in the bloodlines that Nixon be a great coach. Nixon’s grandfather and father were coaches at Clayton High, where Joe played and later turned into a Catawba commit. Grandpa Glenn Nixon was head coach for 26 years, earning a spot in the NCHSAA Hall of Fame. Joe’s brother David is an assistant coach in the eastern part of the state.
“I imagine Hampton Lee will be a coach,” Chapman said of Nixon’s son.
Eagle Stadium has come alive the last two seasons, where Nixon has accumulated a 21-5 record. This was North’s first double-digit win year since 2001.
In the early 2000s at Catawba, Nixon was an All-America offensive lineman and befriended North’s defensive coordinator Stevie Williams. The two went out to be assistants at West Rowan and developed a working relationship.
“He approaches coaching the same way he did playing,” Williams said. “He’s got the attention to detail and he’s always going to have you ready to play.”
“I’m not smart enough to do anything else,” Nixon said with a laugh before the big game against Davie. After North beat Davie, the Cavaliers became the top-ranked team in the state, something that hadn’t been done at North in decades.
That made him look downright scholarly. That, and being part of an experienced and state-championship level staff at West Rowan for eight years.
“He has a very good grasp of the game,” Chapman said. “But what struck about him at West was how hard he pushed the kids without losing them.”
Two years ago, Nixon arrived at North with established assistants Chapman, Williams, Josh Sophia and Ben Hampton. Nixon has more than adequate knowledge of X’s and O’s, but he doesn’t overrule his assistants, who are pretty knowledgeable themselves.
“He never thinks he’s bigger than the staff,” Williams said. “He always takes what we say with an open mind, allows us to coach and help the team.”
Nixon’s young (33) and has a coaching pedigree that few can rival. Given a consistent pipeline of talent at North, there’s a chance the Cavs could be good for a long time with Nixon at the helm. Next season, a stout junior class that includes running back Jareke Chambers, quarterback Alexis Archie and wide receiver Sakil Harrison will be seniors.