A 6-foot-6, 300-pound five-star athlete, Lucas Nix dominated as a tackle while at Class AAA Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills, Pa. However, due to the already still competition at tackle with the Pittsburgh football team, Nix is pushing fourth-year starter C.J. Davis at left guard.
Nix even has been practicing with the first-teamers in the morning sessions during Pitt's training camp this initial week.
"I like working out in the morning with the starters, because I'm getting just as many reps as they get,'' Nix said. "I wasn't expecting to play guard, but when I got here they already had a lot of competition at the tackle spots.
"So, the best place for me to get playing time is at guard. So, I'm playing C.J. at left guard. It's just a better chance for me to get in there and make a quick move. So, that's just fine with me, however I can get on the field.''
With Davis starting his fourth and final season at Pitt, Nix gets to learn behind the Panthers most-experienced offensive lineman. Redshirt sophomore Jason Pinkston calls him the pap, the grandfather of the offensive line. It's not a moniker he expected, but it's a role that he relishes.
"I still see myself as a young guy, but I am the older guy in the unit,'' Davis said. "And we have a lot of young guys in there like Lucas Nix, who's backing me up. So, I have to do a lot more mentoring and set an example for these guys. I'm looking for great things from all of us.
"I'm not much of a talker, though. I feel like that's the best example I can set, show them what I can do, and I enjoy helping the younger guys out. We have some terrific young talent, like Nix and Chris Jacobson, on the O-line.''
Nix certainly returned the compliments when asked about Davis.
"He's been great so far,'' Nix said. "When I'm in there, he's the first one to greet me at the huddle to tell me about the previous play, if I've done something wrong or if I do something right. He's helped me out a lot. So, it's been a great experience for me so far.''
Tony Wise, in his first season as Pitt's offensive line coach, appears to be an excellent teacher at the position. And the Panthers certainly respect him as someone who has a lot of experience, especially in the NFL, and a guy who won't sugar-coat anything he has to tell them.
"Coach Wise isn't the type of guy to beat around the bush,'' Nix said. "He'll tell you exactly how it is, how he feels, so there should be no misunderstanding. ... He talks over everything on the field and especially during the meetings. So, there's no excuse. You should never make the same mistake twice.''
Nix said "coming to the South Side to play for Pitt was a natural destination for him,'' since he's a "hometown guy'' who enjoys being around his friends and family. However, some believed that when problems arose with his academics at Thomas Jefferson after football season, Nix's future at Pitt was in jeopardy.
Nix, however, said there was never any doubt that he would enroll on time. Nix completed every academic requirement at TJ and graduated on time.
"In my mind, it was only a matter of me getting out of high school,'' Nix said. "We knew I was going to be at Pitt, but we had to figure out how I could get out of high school the easiest way, because there were some problems for me going on at the school. But I finished out the year and got my degree.
"And I enrolled at Pitt (June 22). ... I graduated from TJ June 12, so there wasn't much time before I got to Pitt. I only had a week-and-a-half off before I enrolled at Pitt. (But) I love playing football, and it was great to get down here and get involved early. I really enjoyed myself, and our workouts were done by 9:30 or so in the morning, since we started so early.''
Now, it's Pitt football all day, all the time for Nix and his teammates, as training camp is in full swing. There are no classes to worry about for a couple weeks.
"This is a hard-working football team, and we're really pushing ourselves now,'' Nix said. "That's what I like about these guys. We want to be the best we can be to make Pitt a successful football program. And there's no reason why we won't get it done this season.''
And with young offensive linemen like Nix waiting in the wings, the Panthers' future appears to be bright as well.