Sometimes Football Isn’t Everything

October 24, 2016

USF Kicker Ryan Nix

To USF kicker Ryan Nix, football is just one part of a fascinating college experience. The senior, art major and META student from Valparaiso has been named to the Fred Mitchell Award’s 27-man national watch list, which is a prestigious honor for any college kicker, but Nix has another accomplishment of which to be proud.

Earlier this year, Nix and 11 Cougar teammates, coming off an 11-1 season and the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League title, visited San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. They teamed up with Sus Hijos, an El Salvador charity organization, to aid impoverished people in a country slightly smaller than New Jersey. In less than two weeks they visited four orphanages, delivered meals to 750 homeless people at night and navigated through a jungle to build two homes.

“That was backbreaking work,” Nix said. “It took seven hours to unload a flatbed truck with the materials and carry material for the homes uphill to the site. It was pretty intense, but very rewarding.”

That kind of work ethic does not surprise Coach Kevin Donley, who gave Nix the honor of being USF’s first kicker to be named a team captain.

“He’s a great leader,” said Donley, who is also depending on Justin Green, a running back from Griffith, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. “Both made (first team) all-conference. They’re great people.”

During his time in San Salvador, Nix was surrounded by semi-active volcanoes and a constant threat of danger from cartels that operate within the country, but he and his teammates were not worried.

“We stayed in a gated area protected by armed guards,” Nix said. “They’re everywhere. I was never really worried. The cartels respect what we’re doing for the homeless and didn’t bother us.”

The players funded the mission with door-to-door fundraising, raffles and donations at D’Arcy Stadium. Nix is already planning to return to San Salvador and hopes to recruit as many as 24 volunteers if the money can be raised.

“We’re looking for corporate sponsors and community involvement,” he said.

Meanwhile, there’s still work to do on the football field, as Nix and the Cougars strive to build on last year’s success and pursue their championship goals.