Austin Nice is a very personable young man and a quick talker. He hopes to put both attributes to good use in the real estate business in a big city soon after his graduation from Augustana College.
He also puts a fast motor — and those same talking skills — to use on the football field for the Vikings.
The senior has been one of the key cogs in a resurgent Viking defense that has made some nice strides under new defensive coordinator Dick Maloney. Nice helped the Vikings to a 24-12 victory over Carroll last weekend that moved them to 4-5 ahead of this Saturday's senior day finale at Lindberg Stadium against Carthage (3-6, 3-5 CCIW). He had three tackles for loss, including one sack, and logged one pass breakup last Saturday as he earned the team's top defensive honor for the week.
“He made some huge plays for us,” said Augie coach Steve Bell.
However, that has been the norm for the former Normal Community High prep who on Saturday will reach an Augie milestone, starting in his 40th straight game to cap a career in which he started every game in his Vikings' tenure. He is second in both TFLs (10 for 63 yards in losses) and sacks (5-38) for this season's Vikings. His 36 total tackles are tied for sixth on the team but lead the defensive linemen.
That's where his fast motor comes into play as he employs the length from his 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame and puts it to good use.
“Some people may not agree with the way I play; I try to play the game with a lot of passion, and I try to be relentless, and I try to play for all the guys next to me,” said Nice. “I've had a very high motor ever since I was 7 years old. I've played defensive end my entire life, and it's a position where I've been slightly undersized throughout my career but finally fit the mold, and I'm able to hold my own now.”
This year, Nice has not only been able to hold his own at end but, with a great offseason of weight and conditioning work, has bulked up to 240 pounds and been able to slide into defensive tackle duties and team with local juniors Xavier Holley and Daniel Tjaden to create a formidable front line.
“He's physically different than he was last year,” said Bell, who was recruiting Nice when he was still coaching at Monmouth College. “His swing to defensive tackle has been paramount. That's allowed us to have better athletes on the line at some moments and still get in there with those big dudes, the thick kids, and hold himself in there because of his weight room work.”
Nice credits his decision to stay in the Quad-Cities last summer and get on the Athletic Development Program the school offers for his ability to muscle up with the big offensive linemen across from him. That work, though, is just part of his success.
“There's a bunch of talent in the CCIW, and if you're going to play D-line and you're going to be successful, you have to have some kind of motor inside you and know when to hit that fifth gear,” said Nice. “I've received a lot of good compliments from around the league from multiple coaches who appreciate my motor. It's a very humbling reward to hear other coaches say to you after a game that they love the way you play the game, they love your motor and they love my energy. That's just something I wish every person would bring to every practice.”
According to Bell, though, there's a fine line that Nice straddles each week.
“He's a talker, and sometimes that gets him in trouble,” said Bell. “It's not because he's a bad kid, it just matters that much to him. He doesn't want to back down from anything. … You just have to keep him under control at times.”
That has not been much of an issue on game days when his high-intensity approach has keyed the aggressive Augie defense.
“The way I look at it is if you bring the energy, it makes the competition increase dramatically and makes everyone want to be out there more,” said Nice. “When you're more passionate and enjoy what you do, it leads to more success on and off the field.”
The finance and marketing major, with a minor in communications, is hoping to end up in either real estate or financial investment in Chicago, Nashville, or Austin, Texas.
“I fell in love with talking to people and I love the networking aspect of the business industry,” said Nice. “I'm very social, so I like working with people and meeting people.”
He especially enjoys contact with football players in jerseys a different color than his own. Shoot, he might even take a moment to talk to them after they meet.
“That,” said Bell, “is just Austin.”