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Combine opens Pitt star's eyes to reality of NFL football

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Former Pitt football standout Lucas Nix has been working out with Dom DeCicco and Jason Pinkston for years, so the fact the three of them have been training together almost daily since the season ended should really come as no surprise.

However, for Nix, these workouts feel a little different.

That's because, very soon, Nix will be joining DeCicco and Pinkston in the NFL.

Nix, a Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, grew up playing sports with DeCicco, and the two went on to star together with the Jaguars.

After high school, both players signed with Pitt, where they became teammates with Pinkston, a fellow South Hills product from Baldwin.

However, DeCicco and Pinkston are older than Nix, and last year he watched as they became NFL players: DeCicco, a linebacker/special teams player with the Chicago Bears; and Pinkston, a guard with the Cleveland Browns.

Now, it's his turn.

Nix, a 6-foot-6, 317-pound offensive lineman, returned from the NFL scouting combine on Saturday, where the reality of his NFL future started to sink in.

"The combine was the first thing that really opened my eyes," Nix said. "That's where you start getting treated like a grown man. It's down to business."

At the combine, he interacted with personnel from every NFL team, underwent a slew of medical exams and psychological tests and worked out in front of scouts.

Nix missed much of his senior year at Pitt with a knee injury, so the medical exams were especially important.

"The first two days there, during the day, you go through all sorts of medical stuff," he said. "They look at your bloodwork, heart rate, everything you can think of. ... They all looked at my knee, and it checked out fine."

Nix participated in the vertical leap, recording a 29.5-inch jump, and ran the 40-yard dash in 5.28 seconds.

He was interviewed briefly by each NFL team, and representatives from the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers engaged Nix in more lengthy interviews.

He said teams expressed interest about him playing guard and tackle, both of which he played at Pitt.

"Every team I talked to, I wanted to express that I was comfortable at both," he said.

During his TJ days, he played on three WPIAL Class AAA championships and two PIAA championships, and was selected to the Tribune-Review's Terrific 25, the Big 33 Football Classic and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Nix arrived at Pitt as one of the most coveted offensive line prospects in the country. He played sparingly as a freshman, then became a full-time starter at offensive tackle as a sophomore.

By the time he was a junior, he was regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the Big East.

Many draft experts predict he will be selected between the second and fourth rounds. ranks him as the ninth-best guard in the draft.

The next big step will come at Pitt's pro day on March 12, where he and other Pitt seniors will work out before NFL scouts. After that, it's the draft April 26-28.

"This is an exciting time for me and my family," he said. "I'm pumped."

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