INDIANAPOLIS — Newest Indianapolis Colts fullback Roosevelt Nix, signed by the team on Saturday, today spoke with local reporters about the evolution of the fullback position in the NFL, why he's been so successful on special teams, his football evolution and much more.
You can listen to that entire conversation above, but here are some highlights:
» A willingness to figure out a way to play at the NFL level — wherever it was — led to Nix's transition from college defensive tackle to fullback: Nix was a stud defensive tackle at Kent State, where he appeared in 49 total games and tallied 182 tackles, a school record 65 tackles for loss, with 24 sacks, 12 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles and one fumble cover returned for a touchdown. He was the first player in school history, and fifth player in Mid-American Conference history, to earn First-Team All-MAC honors in four different seasons.
But when it came time to train for the next level, Nix, at 5-foot-11, didn't quite have the size NFL teams would want up front along the defensive line. So he took on the moniker of "athlete," and in 2014 he was signed as undrafted rookie free agent by the Atlanta Falcons, who moved him to fullback.
Although Nix was let go during training camp later that year, he would be given another shot the following season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and would go on to play the next five years in the Steel City, even earning Pro Bowl honors in 2017 as a key blocker on offense and a special teams stud for just about every unit.
"When I came out of school I wanted to play football still, and I had to lose some weight. And I wanted to just play; I didn't really care what position," Nix said. "Ended up coming out as an athlete, and went to the Falcons as a fullback, got cut, and I got another opportunity with Pittsburgh, and that's where I spent the rest of my career up until now."
» Nix does not believe the fullback position is dying in the NFL, but versatility remains key: Case in point — Nix could be the first true fullback on a Colts' regular season roster since 2013, when Stanley Havili played in 13 games with eight starts.
Since that time, the team has utilized players from other positions when a fullback is needed in various formations; in 2018, tight end Ryan Hewitt was mostly lining up at fullback, while last year, running backs Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Williams, guard Quenton Nelson and tight ends Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox and Eric Ebron all got snaps at "fullback" here or there.
Asked where he thought the fullback position was headed in the NFL, Nix pointed out the fact that one of the Super Bowl teams from last year, the San Francisco 49ers, still relied quite heavily on their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk.
"I just think the stigma of the fullback is dying," Nix said. "I think the position in itself is changing; I think you have to be able to do a lot of things and kind of be a hybrid player."
With the Colts, who ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing last season — just barely missing landing in the top-five — Nix is ready to show what added value he can bring to the offense.
"Just very excited — you know, they haven't had a fullback in a while — and I'm excited to be a guy they take a chance on," he said. "So we'll just see what happens.
"That's how we're supposed to play the game," Nix later said of his tough nature. "You know, the game is a tough game, won in-between the trenches, and the Colts, we've got a great offensive line, we're gonna put me back there, and Marlon Mack, like I said, is already an outstanding running back, so I'm just excited to see what happens; excited to see how this plays out."
» Nix's defensive background has been a huge help when he plays on special teams: While Nix wasn't able to continue on at the NFL level as a defensive lineman, a lot of those same skills, he says, are still a factor when he's making plays on special teams.
In fact, from 2015-18, Nix combined to make 34 special teams tackles and forced two fumbles, while also blocking a punt the 2018 season.
"I played defense my whole life, all the way (through) college," Nix said. "Just being on defense — tackling, angles, understanding that, and knowing my body, knowing my speed, knowing all my angles and stuff like that — has allowed me to do well on special teams. Just being a bigger guy with a little bit of speed kind of helps."
Having players with those kind of skills on special teams can make a huge difference on Sundays.
"With the Steelers I played all special teams," Nix said. "I was able to block kicks, make tackles — just regular stuff. Just able to have the opportunity to just be a factor, to change the game. That's one-third of the game; that's an important part of the game, and we've seen games won and lost off of special teams. So it's important."
» Nix clearly understands how to successfully play a role on a team: Much like offensive linemen, fullbacks at the NFL level don't tend to get a lot of the credit or shine when things go well. They're usually tough-minded players who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and Nix certainly seems to fit that mold.
While he's played in 60 career games with 11 starts in Pittsburgh from 2015-19, Nix was utilized sparingly with the ball in his hands, as he has just four career rushing attempts for four yards and a touchdown, as well as 12 receptions for 69 yards and another score through the air.
Nix has, of course, had conversations with members of the Colts' coaching staff about his potential role on the team, which could very well include the possibility of more plays designed with him in mind. But even if he continues to be utilized primarily as a blocker and special teamer, that's perfectly fine with him.
"I would say I'm good at a lot of things, it's just blocking is one of the things that I have to do," Nix said. "You know, you just have to be aggressive, you have to understand the way the ball is supposed to be ran, where it's supposed to go and how to work with your teammates to get the job done.
"You know, I always say there was a time where I didn't even play," Nix later added. "I was cut and I didn't even play in this league. So, you know, just to be in it is a blessing to me, and not everybody's gonna touch the ball — that's part of the game, too. I'm sure some of the linemen want to touch the ball, too. So if they call it, they call it; if they don't, they don't."
See some of the best images of fullback Roosevelt Nix as he signs with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.