Beating the Longhorns is always a source of pride for any fan of TCU football. For former Horned Frog quarterback Kent Nix, it was a family tradition. Nix attended Texas Christian University from 1962-1965 and by his senior season he was the starting quarterback. He was following in the footsteps of his quarterback father, Emery Nix, who lined up behind center for TCU during World War II.
Coming out of the Corpus Christi high school football scene, Kent Nix was not short on options when it came to schools recruiting him. “Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, all the schools that were, at that point, the old Southwest conference, but I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to TCU,” he recalls.
Injuries derailed the first few years of Nix’s college career, but as a starting quarterback his senior year he led TCU, under Head Coach Abe Martin, to a 6-4 record, beating teams like Baylor and Texas A&M and earning a trip to the Sun Bowl where they narrowly lost to Texas Western 13-12.
However, it was a trip down to Austin that season that Nix still thinks about most often. His father was a former TCU quarterback and successful high school football coach; easy to idolize, harder to impress. Kent had always heard the stories of Emery Nix going down to Austin in 1941 to take on an undefeated Texas team that had all but booked their ticket to the Rose Bowl. “My dad threw a touchdown pass to beat them and TCU knocked them out of the Rose Bowl,” Kent recalls. In 1965, Kent would become the second Nix to beat the Longhorns in Memorial Stadium.
Nix wasn’t done imitating his father, who had played in the NFL for the New York Giants in the early forties. After leaving TCU, Kent Nix would go on to play in the NFL for seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, and Houston Oilers. They are recognized as the original father/son quarterback duo in the NFL.
The NFL had always been a dream for Kent, and when that dream became reality, its mythical characters became acquaintances. He drove up to Wisconsin for his first training camp where he thought he would be cut from the team within weeks. Before camp ended, legendary coach Vince Lombardi put his arm around Nix and told him, “I want you to make plans to be here the whole year.” Nix would land a spot on the Packers’ practice squad.
None other than Hall of Famer Bart Starr held the starting quarterback job that season. Instead of trying to compete with Starr, Nix looked to learn from him. “One of the best things from that season was Bart Starr sort of took me under his wing,” Nix said. Tuesday nights at Starr’s house became a weekly tradition of his wife Cherry’s fried chicken followed by a few hours of watching film. Bart would stop the projector and show me the different team defenses. One of the nicest and humblest guys you’d ever want to meet and my QB mentor,” Nix says of Starr.
That just so happened to be the year of Super Bowl I, which the Packers won over the Kansas City Chiefs. At that time, though, the 3 practice players did not receive a championship ring. When it became apparent that Nix had enough talent to play, but would not dethrone Starr, Green Bay traded him to Pittsburgh.
In Nix’s official rookie year with the Steelers an injury to the starting quarterback, Bill Nelson, midway through the season gave Nix his first real chance and he performed well. One of his favorite memories that season is before going on the field receiving a Western Union telegram from Bart Starr…wishing him luck in his first start with the Steelers. His most memorable Steeler performance was against the Dallas Cowboys when he completed 26-34 passes setting the record for most completions in one game against the Cowboys despite losing 24-21. Dallas coach Tom Landry said after the game that Nix was the best rookie quarterback he’d seen in a long time.
Nix started the following season with Pittsburgh. He was there for the franchise’s first season under Chuck Noll. However, coming into Nix’s fourth season, the team drafted Terry Bradshaw and moved on from Nix. His final years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers …Nix had the opportunity to start several games. He had come back to Fort Worth during his NFL career to finish his Business degree at TCU where he also met his wife, Susan, Miss TCU. “Susan and I decided to make Fort Worth home after I retired and raise our family here,” Nix said.
After a few stints as a stockbroker and salesman with IBM, Nix decided that he wanted to own his own business. He purchased University Cleaner’s main plant and three sub stations in Fort Worth. For eight years, he and Susan were in the dry cleaning business and were eventually able to sell the company for a considerable profit. Susan Nix now runs her own firm, Susan Nix Consulting Group.
This became something of a trend for the Nixes. After University Cleaners, they bought TCU Florist. It was a love affair of a business as they enjoyed being a part of the TCU family by helping students, alums and parents. His next business investment was Sally’s Flowers on Camp Bowie. Since selling the business, he has been involved in investments, playing golf and serving on the Colonial Country Club Board of Governors. His favorite part of retirement is getting a check from the NFL as part of his seven years of service….more than some of his paychecks when he played, he notes.
Now, Nix watches TCU football with a mixture of pride and excitement. Football has changed since his days at TCU, but Nix has always preferred a throwing offense. His senior season, Hunter Enis and Jim Shofner joined the staff as assistant coaches. Nix says they, “livened up the offense and I was able to throw the ball more which was my style of play.”
This might sound familiar. In 2014, TCU named Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie co-offensive coordinators and they drastically converted the offense to an air-raid attack. Nix agrees. “I have enjoyed the success of this type of offense and the strategy behind it the most! I believe they came at an opportune time and have helped vault us to the top of NCAA College football. I think it’s more exciting than it’s ever been for TCU football. And Susan and I are very fond of Coach P and his phenomenal tenure at TCU.”
Between the stories of his father, his own exploits, and the time he’s spent in Fort Worth since then, Nix has seen it all when it comes to TCU football, but right now, he’s focused on the present. Says Nix: “Our 4 grandchildren are the fourth generation to follow the TCU tradition, no matter where they go to school, as we believe it is in their DNA to cheer for the Frogs.”