Taurean Nixon had no idea how fast he was.
Sure, the former Tulane cornerback and Southern Lab alum knew speed was his strength, and he outran teammates for years. But it wasn’t until stopwatches clicked in front of NFL scouts that it became a quantifiable entity.
“Yeah, it turned out I was really fast,” Nixon said. “I hadn’t run a timed 40(-yard dash) since the 11th grade. So when they started telling my time, even I was pretty amazed by it.”
Nixon was clocked at anywhere between 4.25 and 4.37 seconds. The 4.25 would’ve been the fastest at this year’s NFL combine — which Nixon wasn’t invited to — and the 4.37 makes him the second-fastest cornerback available in this year’s draft.
When Nixon exploded off the line and through the 40-yard marker at the Saints team facility during Tulane’s pro day March 26, his agent Stan Wiltz said the gaggle of NFL scouts on hand started checking each other’s watches to see whether what they recorded was true.
“It got a lot of people’s attention,” said agent Martin Fischman, who also represents Nixon. “That was a big moment, but it really was just the culmination of an incredible amount of determination and persistence and desire to be great. Taurean has taken on the challenge of using these months to properly prepare for this, and his performance proved it.”
It went beyond the 40-yard dash. Nixon leapt 11 feet, 2 inches in the broad jump, which would’ve been second-best among defensive backs at the combine. Then there was the 38-inch vertical jump and the 18 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
Yet Nixon isn’t being debated on ESPN or popping up in the sixth installment of a reporter’s mock draft. He’s just hoping to see his name scroll across the bottom of the screen before the NFL draft comes to a close Saturday night.
“I can’t change what happened in the past, but I always felt like my coaches and teammates and people inside the team knew what I could do but that people on the outside didn’t,” Nixon said. “It was all about showing them. I came in knowing I would be an underdog and be someone that scouts didn’t know about.
“My goal was to make it so that, when people leave this facility, they are all going to at least know my name and ask why they don’t know about me. I had a chip on my shoulder and worked with it and let it drive me.”
After switching positions from outside cornerback to nickel back early in his senior season, Nixon failed to put up the gaudy numbers that draw attention from media and player personnel directors. He started eight games, racked up 31 tackles and one interception and was largely overshadowed by fellow cornerbacks Lorenzo Doss and Parry Nickerson, who raked in awards and honors thanks to their prolific interception numbers.
But that only served as further motivation for Nixon. Fischman said there were days he would call his client at 8 a.m. and wait all day to hear back from him.
“He wouldn’t get back to me for like 11 hours because he would just at the gym and train all day,” Fischman said. “It was kind of incredible.”
It goes beyond the 40-yard dash or the broad jump. Nixon worked diligently on covering individual routes and specific distances, repeating the acts over and over with a position coach.
It’s a level of detailed scrutiny that Tulane secondary coach Jason Rollins wasn’t allowed to dole out because of the mandated on-field hours limits enacted by the NCAA.
But Nixon never wanted to stop. He compared it to basketball players with a key to the gym, claiming he didn’t understand how shooters who missed 3-pointers the night before could sleep, when a chance to improve their game was just waiting there for them.
It’s why he’s fielding calls from scouts and gauging interest from teams that swear he would be a perfect fit if he goes undrafted and gets to pick his franchise as a free agent.
It can all happen in less than 4.4 seconds.
“I felt I owed it to myself to do everything I could to prepare for this,” Nixon said. “I have put in every bit of myself into it, just hoping to get the opportunity, and that’s all I really want. ...
“I know I’m not famous and not everyone is talking about me, but I just want to get the chance to get out there and earn a spot.”