Sept. 4, 2003
by Simit Shah
Saturday will be a tough day for Patrick Nix. While fans have been eagerly anticipating the renewal of the Auburn-Georgia Tech rivalry, the Yellow Jackets’ assistant coach has mixed emotions facing his alma mater.
“It’s not going to be hard that week of practice, and it’s not going to be hard watching them on film,” he explained. “I think the hard part is going to be when we’re on the field, and I hear the (Auburn) band play the fight song and see the orange and blue.
“But if they’re playing the [Auburn] fight song, I’m sure I’ll be mad about something that we did,” he said. “My family, especially my kids, will probably be a little torn, but I know which sideline I’m on.”
Nix played quarterback at Auburn in the mid-90’s, starting for his final two seasons. He threw for 4,957 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career, which included a victory in relief over Alabama to cap an 11-0 season in 1993 and a memorable win over top-ranked Florida in 1994.
That experience is one reason he’s a rising star in the coaching ranks. In his second season on Chan Gailey’s staff, Nix is coaching quarterbacks and coordinating the running game.
“He’s an excellent young coach,” said Gailey. “I know his aspirations are to be a head coach someday, and I know he’ll be a good one. I’m very comfortable with him handling these new responsibilities.”
The new duties include the unorthodox offensive coordinator setup. Nix coordinates the running game, while fellow assistant Buddy Geis manages the passing game. Meanwhile, Gailey calls the plays during games. It sounds a little confusing, but Nix was part of a similar system during his first coaching job at Jacksonville State University.
“That one was more unique than this,” he said. “We had one guy call the running plays, the other the passing plays during the games. That was certainly bizarre.”
Under Gailey, Nix and Geis handle the paperwork aspect of the job, organizing practices, scouting reports and gameplans during the week. On Saturdays, they have input at certain times.
“In between series, I may offer a suggestion,” Nix said. “I’ve always found Coach Gailey to be open to ideas.
“Here’s a guy that’s been in the NFL. He’s been there and done it all, but he’ll still come up and ask, ‘What do you guys think about this?’ He’s sincere when he says that he’ll take something out if we don’t think it’ll work. That’s amazing to me. It’s fun to be around a guy like that.”
The 31-year-old Nix is the youngest member of Gailey’s staff, but his experience dates back to middle school when he helped his father Conrad, a high school coach.
“The coaching staff was short-handed,” remembered the elder Nix, who coaches at Northside Warner Robbins. “There was always a lot to do, and he’d help break down film and chart games.
“His mother and I both wanted him to be a doctor or engineer, but he’s always been interested in coaching, so it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Patrick began his coaching career immediately after graduating from Auburn. After three years as an assistant at Jacksonville State, Nix served as head coach of Henderson State University in Arkansas for two seasons. A one-year stint at Samford preceded his hiring at Georgia Tech.
Nix served as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator last season, and his transition to quarterbacks coach has been smooth despite the dramatic developments at the position this fall. Nix has been able to draw from his own trials and tribulations at Auburn when counseling his players.
“Everything they go through, I’ve been through,” he stated. “I can tell a guy what it’s like to start with the whole state looking at you, watching you either succeed or mess up.
“I can tell the backup what it’s like to be a backup, because I made a career of it for three years. That was hard, but when I got my opportunity in the 11th game of my (redshirt) sophomore year, I was fortunate to be able to win the game against Alabama.
“I’ve been on every side of it-starter, backup, frustrated at times, overconfident at times. With that experience, I can maybe see some things that are going to happen.”
While Nix has a comfort level coaching quarterbacks, lining up on the sideline opposite Auburn this Saturday will be an uncomfortable task.
“That game is going to be really tough for Patrick,” said Conrad Nix. “He’ll be intense the whole week. He loves Auburn, and he poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears when he played there, but he’s a competitor. He’ll give it 110 percent, because more than anything he wants to win.”