Having fun again: Oregon QB Bo Nix is taking it all in during his final college football season

• Oregon quarterback Bo Nix sits down for an exclusive interview with PFF.

• One of the best signal-callers in the country: Nix is our No. 5 quarterback in college football heading into this season.

• A top-three QB in the 2024 NFL Draft: PFF lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema currently has Nix as his No. 3 quarterback in the 2024 class, behind USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

“This is the year. Bo Nix has improved so much under this new offense. He’s focused. He’s having fun. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a dark horse for the Heisman.”

That was tweeted out by an Auburn fan in spring 2021 and instantly became a running gag on college football Twitter, so much so that Nix himself even started selling merchandise for charity with the phrase “Focused. Having fun” printed on it.

Now, the joke has become a perfect representation of Nix’s career arc, perhaps aside from the “dark horse” part. He’s currently tied for seventh in BetMGM’s Heisman odds, at +1600. 

Before his career resurgence at Oregon, though, he endured a tumultuous three years at Auburn. His father, Patrick, was the starting quarterback for the Tigers in the 1994-95 seasons, which led his son to choose them as a five-star recruit coming out of Pinson Valley High School in Alabama. When asked what he’ll remember from his time at his father’s alma mater, Nix took a deep breath.

“That’s a loaded question,” he said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “My whole life, I wanted to play football at Auburn. I got to accomplish my dream and do a lot of really fun things around some great people. I met my wife at Auburn and got my diploma from there. One of my ultimate goals was to play football at Auburn and beat Alabama. I did that. That’s what I’ll remember. We had some fun seasons and some not-so-fun ones. That’s what made me into who I am today.”

One not-so-fun season was when Auburn went 6-7 in 2021, its first losing record in nine years. Nix was benched at one point in the campaign. That offseason, he made the difficult decision to leave his dream school and enter the transfer portal. From there, one destination stood out from the rest.

“Everything led to Oregon,” Nix said. “Coaching staff, players, situation. Everything was just Oregon all the way. I kept asking myself, ‘Why not Oregon?’ and I could not find the answer. Oregon was by far the best situation for me, and it’s worked out unbelievably well, far better than what I could’ve imagined. I wanted to go somewhere and give myself a chance, and a chance I definitely got.”

Nix took advantage of the fresh start and looked like a completely different signal-caller in 2022. Across his first three seasons at Auburn, his 69.7% adjusted completion rate ranked just 108th among FBS quarterbacks. But this past season, Nix’s 82.3% mark led the Power Five and placed second in the nation. He attributes his breakout campaign to being the most comfortable he’s ever been in an offense.

“I had another year of growth and maturity,” Nix said. “[I was] playing in a different system and was able to learn something new. I think we did a good job of doing what I was good at last year. We took more shots vertically than I’ve ever done before in the past. If it wasn’t there, I’d throw the checkdown because I knew they’d call it again a few plays later. When we threw them, our receivers were open and our guys made plays.” 

After his dominant season, Nix could’ve very easily fulfilled his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL by declaring for the 2023 draft. However, as the meme goes, “He’s having fun.”

“Last year, it was just fun playing football,” Nix said. “When we got the extra year, I just didn’t want to exhaust it without giving it the best shot I had. The NFL would be there down the road whenever I wanted to come out. I didn’t want to give up on college. I felt like there were still some things I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to maximize all the opportunities I could get. Extra time never hurt anybody, so that’s just what I wanted to do.”

He now enters his fifth college season as one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2024 class. PFF lead draft analyst Trevor Sikkema currently has Nix as his No. 3 signal-caller in the draft, behind USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. While he’s solely focused on this upcoming season, Nix is happy to at least be in the conversation.

“I’m excited that I’m relevant at least,” Nix said. “Last year, I wasn’t even being talked about. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Dude, isn’t it cool you’re being talked about?’ Yes, yes it is. Now, the hard work is starting to pay off. Hopefully, when the draft comes around next year, somebody else sees that and maybe picks me at a higher spot. I always wanted to be a really good draft pick and to play in the NFL. At the same time, I don’t want to give up what I have now for those dreams because those will come someday. I’m excited for the future, but at the same time I love the present.”

One reason Nix is taking it all in this season is that his adopted brother, wide receiver Tez Johnson, transferred from Troy to Oregon this offseason. In 2022, Johnson ranked second among FBS receivers in grade (89.9) and yards per route run (3.52).

It’s cooler than I can even explain to you just because of his story and our story,” Nix said. “We were high school teammates. His dream as soon as he got into our house was to be an Oregon football player. Long story short, we get all the way here, and now it’s happened. It’s things you can’t make up. Ten years ago, he never actually thought it could be true. We’re excited to play together again and we both want the same thing: for Oregon to be as successful as possible.”

The Ducks’ success is what’s on Nix’s mind this season. While a Heisman Trophy would be nice, he’s focused on other hardware.

“Yes, it’s a goal like being a draft pick,” Nix said of the coveted stiff-arm trophy. “But one of my ultimate goals right now is to win a championship. It doesn’t matter what kind because championships lead to other championships. I owe that to my team and coaches to do what I have to do to help them win. Team success always ends up in individual success. Ultimately, I want to win a championship for Oregon and go out and do something in college football.”

Nix has endured a rollercoaster that few have gone through before in their collegiate careers. Ultimately, his faith has kept him from getting off the ride.

“I believe the Lord’s placed me here,” Nix said. “Right now, it’s in Eugene, Oregon. He has put me here to go out and impact other people, to be a great leader, a great teammate, a great role model for younger kids who grow up and want to be something like myself. Hopefully, [they can be] even better when they get this opportunity. I just want to be a light to other people and show that there’s a lot more out there than just football, success and even adversity. I’ve been through all of it, the good and the bad. I’m still the same guy. I just want to show that to other people. If I’m making their lives better, that’s why I do it.”

This is the (final) year for Bo Nix. He’s improved. He's focused. And he's having fun.

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