We wondered how Iowa might replace a superstar defensive lineman in A.J. Epenesa, who departed for the NFL after last season. As it turns out Iowa had another superstar defensive lineman waiting in the wings: Daviyon Nixon. Nixon went for a rotational player on the defensive line last season to an unstoppable terrormonster. And he wasn't just the best defensive lineman in the entire Big Ten -- he was the best defensive player in the league.
And now he has the official hardware to acknowledge those titles On Wednesday Nixon was named the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year and the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year by the Big Ten.
Nixon has the stats to back up his awards -- he led the Big Ten in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks* (5.5), and he also led all Big Ten defensive linemen in tackles (45).
* Nixon was actually tied with Iowa teammate Chauncey Golston in both of those categories.
He had the highlights to back up the awards too:
A HUGE #B1GFootball for the 2020 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year Trophy— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) December 16, 2020
Defensive Tackle @DaviyonNixon was a tackling machine for @HawkeyeFootball all season long
Congratulations for your hard work on the field pic.twitter.com/4ujgA6tkyh
What an absolute monster. Nixon practically lived in opponents' backfields, harassing quarterbacks and engulfing running backs. He made big play after big play after big play, helping seal countless wins for Iowa during their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. Iowa's been blessed with some very, very, very good defensive linemen during Kirk Ferentz's 20+ years in charge -- guys like Epenesa, Mike Daniels, Mitch King, Aaron Kampman, Matt Roth, and Adrian Clayborn to name a handful -- but Nixon fully deserves a spot among all those greats. He's been absolutely phenomenal in the black and gold this season.
Nixon becomes the first Hawkeye to ever win both the Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year awards in the same season. He's just the third Hawkeye to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award, following in the footsteps of Josey Jewell (2017) and Leroy Smith (1991). And he's the sixth Hawkeye to win the Defensive Lineman of the Year award, though the first since Mitch King brought home that honor in 2008. (It's true: neither Clayborn nor Epenesa earned Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year honors during their celebrated Iowa tenures.) The other four Hawkeyes to win Defensive Linemen of the Year were Paul Hufford (1984), Dave Haight (1987), Leroy Smith (1991), and Jared DeVries (1997).
Congratulations to Daviyon Nixon. It's been an absolute joy to watch him dominate on defense for the past two months.