When Father’s Day rolls around on Sunday, Central-Phenix City football coach Patrick Nix and his family plan on treating it like any other summer day. Nix said he and his loved ones practically celebrate the holiday every day, a state of being that has been especially sweet for Nix since this time last year.
Nix, his wife Krista and their four children have enjoyed a whirlwind journey together since their second-oldest, Bo, was named Auburn’s starting quarterback last fall. The family rode the ups and downs of the Tigers’ nine-win season every step of the way, from the thrilling season-opening victory over Oregon in which Bo threw the game-winning score in the final seconds to the dramatic Iron Bowl win in which Bo followed in his father’s footsteps and helped the Tigers top the Crimson Tide in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Nix is far more accustomed to being on the sidelines instead of up in the stands, but he’s welcomed the change of pace with open arms. Getting the chance to root on Bo and the Tigers as a fan has not only allowed him to truly enjoy watching his son work, but it’s also provided a bonding experience for him, his wife and their other three kids.
“It’s been obviously exciting. As a family, we’ve really enjoyed being able to go, watch, travel and enjoy each other in a way without Bo because Bo was the one out there playing,” Nix said. “We’ve been able to really enjoy the games so to speak with me not having to call plays or having to do this or that and just watching and enjoying. Now I get the pressure of just watching as a dad instead of the pressure of watching him trying to figure things out as a coach.”
Kids and coaching
Nix made a name for himself as an Auburn Tiger two-and-a-half decades ago during a playing career that included 32 games, 4,957 passing yards, two victories over the Crimson Tide and new school records for completions in a game and career passing efficiency.
Shortly after leaving Auburn following the 1995 season, Nix jumped straight into coaching, becoming an assistant at Jacksonville State the following year and staying on staff for three seasons before being named head coach at Henderson State in Arkansas.
Those early jobs were just the start of a college coaching career that featured a high trajectory for Nix, whose family was also growing then.
By the time Nix arrived at Georgia Tech in 2002 as the Yellow Jackets’ offensive coordinator, he and Krista had Emma Grace, their oldest child, and Bo to look after. It didn’t take long for Nix to understand that he had to make the most of every moment he had with his young family while also balancing the responsibilities as a play-caller for a major Division I program.
“You had to be very intentional. Time was occupied so much with your jobs and what you were doing there. When you had time to yourself and time with your family, you definitely had to be intentional in trying to make sure you were spending it with them and not doing something else,” Nix said. “We enjoyed the different places we’ve lived, the things we’ve learned from the different places we’ve lived, the culture of the different places we’ve lived and the friends that we’ve made. We value those times and still do to this day. The lessons that Bo probably learned from other players and being around different places and different locker rooms were valuable.”
Nix spent five seasons with the Yellow Jackets before moving on to the Miami Hurricanes, where he was offensive coordinator for two seasons. Following one year out of coaching, Nix became wide receivers coach at Charleston Southern for three seasons, by which point he had made his mind up on making a change.
Nix was well-established on the collegiate level, but after the 2012 season he re-evaluated his career path. Emma Grace was already in high school with Bo right behind her, and the two youngest kids — Caleb and Sara — would be there before too long.
Nix, whose father, Conrad, was a high school coach for 41 years, decided it was best to instead coach high school ball and in turn have more time with his children.
“If I was just going to coach football, I probably would have stayed in college, just coached football and not had to worry about teaching and all the other things that come along with high school coaching,” Nix said. “When you’re in college, you’re coaching football — you’re not worrying about all the other things that go along with it. If all I wanted to do was coach, I definitely would have stayed at that level, but I wanted to be around my family more, invest more in them, be around them on a daily basis and have a chance to coach them.
“With my oldest daughter, I wanted to be able to see her every day. Without a doubt, the family and my children were the biggest reason why I got out of college coaching.”
Nix and his family moved to Scottsboro in north Alabama prior to the 2013 season. The Wildcats hadn’t had a winning season in the previous five years, but Nix broke through with seven wins in his debut and helped the team reach the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.
By Nix’s third season, Bo had proven himself to his father and the team and earned starting quarterback duties. The then-freshman threw for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015, and his father recognized that his play was improving as the season wore on. Bo really broke through in 2016, as he led the team to the No. 1 ranking — the first time Scottsboro held the top spot in 49 years — and 12 victories, including multiple postseason wins for the first time since 1997.
Another Auburn Man
Bo had already caught college coaches’ eyes by the time his father took the Pinson Valley job before the 2017 season. Together, the two helped the Indians steamroll through the competition, as the Bo-led offense averaged a whopping 40.6 points per game in a season that ended with a 31-10 victory over Wetumpka for the Class 6A state championship.
As the wins piled up, Bo and his family had the added task of sifting through countless scholarship offers. Nix knew what the experience was like given his playing days in addition to his 16 years as a college coach, and he did his best to give his oldest son insight on making a decision.
“There was much more at stake with it being my son than just a recruit. I wanted to be sure that I gave him the advice to help him make his decision to where he was going to be comfortable, happy and enjoy where he was at. I wanted him to be able to do the things that he wanted to do,” Nix said. “Fortunately for him and our whole family, we had been in situations as far as we had lived in different places and knew some of the things where, ‘OK now, are you going to want to do this or are you going to want to do that?’ We were able to give him some of that kind of stuff instead of just looking necessarily at here and now.
“We could look down the road a little bit and see how’s this going to affect you in 40 and 50 years down the road? That type of thing. I think that from being in (college coaching) gave me a little bit more of a perspective on a bigger picture.”
Ultimately, Bo chose the path his father went down in the early ‘90s by committing to Auburn in January 2018.
“At the end of the day, he loves Auburn. He loves what Auburn stands for. He’s an Auburn person. Auburn is a hard-working, blue-collar type school where you’re not given anything. You’ve got to earn it. That’s sort of been his personality his whole life,” Nix said. “I think at the end of the day, yes, it happened to be Auburn, but he just knew what Auburn stands for and what Auburn is much more than just Auburn football. I think at the end of the day, he knew that was who he was and what he wanted to be a part of.”
Bo’s college destination was set, but he, his father and the Indians weren’t quite done winning big games yet. Bo’s senior season featured another unforgettable run by Pinson Valley, as the team piled up 12 wins in its first 13 games to set up a championship game showdown in Jordan-Hare Stadium against Saraland.
Playing in a stadium he was already set to star in the following season, Nix shined in his final high school game, throwing for 306 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 66 yards and another score in the Indians’ 26-17 victory. The win and MVP performance capped off an incredible high school run for Nix, who set new AHSAA records for career total touchdowns and career yards.
As special as both championships were, Nix pointed to the 2018 title game victory as the more meaningful one between him and his son.
“It may have been because it was the second one or maybe it being at Auburn,” Nix said. “To see him in (2018), we had a couple things not go our way, but he just had matured so much and was able to handle it so much better and didn’t panic a bit. He just continued to play. You’d seen him get so much better physically and mentally from 2017 to ‘18 with being able to handle all sorts of different situations. It was neat to see that that was obviously his last game before he goes to college. As a dad and a coach, you kind of knew that he was ready to take the next step mentally and physically.”
Nix was drawn to how much progress his son had made between his junior and senior season, a growth he again recognized in Bo’s freshman season at Auburn.
From Bo’s last-second touchdown to Seth Williams to beat the Oregon Ducks — which left Nix beaming in the stands with both arms extended toward the sky — in August to his calm and collective picking apart of the Crimson Tide in November, Nix was just one of many who could see Bo passing important mile markers toward becoming one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.
Right down the road
Nix and the rest of the family were there every step of the way for Bo’s first year as the Tigers’ quarterback. That made for some long nights for the Nix household even when Auburn played at home, as traveling from Pinson to Auburn is about a five-hour round trip.
Nix, Krista and their other kids wanted to make the most of Bo’s time as a Tiger, and an opportunity that came together in January made that possible. Nix left Pinson Valley to take the head coaching job at Central-Phenix City, cutting down the distance between home and the university to roughly 35 miles.
It certainly didn’t hurt that Central is one of the state’s most-competitive programs in its highest classification, but being much closer to Bo during a collegiate career that Nix knows cannot last forever was just too good to pass up.
“Obviously, leaving Pinson was not an easy thing. We loved those people and had a lot of success there. They’ll continue to have success, and we would have continued to have success,” Nix said. “It was definitely going to have to take something a little bit extra so to speak, and one of those things was that it is so close to Auburn. Last year, we sacrificed a lot as a family. Now, we loved it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. The time we spent in a car driving and things like that made life tough on everybody — not just for my job but for the other kids and everything else. We’re not going to miss a game. We’re going to be there. All we have to do is worry about the road games. It makes life a little bit easier.
“Yes, it is good that he can get home or we can get up there and enjoy this whole thing. It’s not going to last much longer. He’ll be out of there, so while it is going on we want to enjoy it the best that we can while we have it.”
Nix and the rest of the family welcomed Bo back home this spring when the pandemic forced Auburn to close its dorms, but now things are slowly getting back to normal with Bo preparing for the season and his father settling in with the Red Devils. The setup for the family is an ideal one: they’re close enough where a dinner together is feasible, but far away enough to allow Bo to enjoy his college experience.
Nix said the family doesn’t have anything planned for Sunday, explaining he might not even get to see Bo given what he and his oldest son have on their plates. Nix noted they are lucky because Father’s Day isn’t a must for them; instead, they relish their bond every single day.
“We’re fortunate to where we have a good enough relationship that we’re going to see each other a lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s Father’s Day or not. We’re going to talk a lot. We’re going to see each other. I’m going to call him, and he’s going to call me in different situations. It’s the same thing with my dad,” Nix said. “Sunday will just be kind of another day for us, but it’s also a very busy day because he’s finally back at Auburn and we’re finally back going (at Central). All the planning and everything that we have to do to get ready — what he has to do and what I have to do — it’s just part of it.
“Both of us know that. Both of us are very thankful that we have to be getting ready for Monday instead of not having anything to do.”