Kent Nix, Steelers Quarterback, 1967-1969
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days? How are you spending our time?
I am retired after selling my last business in 2008. I am enjoying playing golf @ Colonial CC here in Fort Worth, working out, doing business consulting and enjoying my kids and grandkids.
How did you choose to sign with the Steelers as a free agent in 1967 – what sold you on the team?
After signing a free agent contract with the Packers out of TCU, I spent one year with them (who went on to win the 1st Super Bowl)….I was traded to the Steelers in 1967. The offensive line coach at Green Bay, Bill Austin, got the Head Coach job at Pittsburgh and traded for me.
Knowing I understood the Packer offensive system made it work for both of us and therefore made the trade appealing to me.
What players and coaches mentored you on that team as you were practically a rookie after spending your first season on Green Bay’s taxi squad. And how did they do so?
Dick Hoak was probably the most helpful….he was the starting halfback and took time to help me adjust to the locker room and the other players. We had several young players on the team ….like JR Wilborn, John Hilton, etc. that made a comfortable peer group to hang out with.
Tom Landry at the time called you the best rookie quarterback he’d seen. What were your greatest strengths?
Since my Dad, Emery Nix, was a QB at TCU and in the NFL with the NY Giants….I had a head start in offensive skills, knowledge of the game and discipline. My Dad’s nickname was “Ice Water” when he played ….. so I guess some of that passed down to me, as I was usually depicted cool in the pocket.
By the way, my Dad and I were the first “father/son” QBs in the NFL.
Offensive accuracy and understanding defenses are strengths I feel I learned at Green Bay from Tuesday night film watching at Bart Starr’s home.
What do you think were the big issues with those 60’s teams that caused the team to struggle so much?
Pittsburgh was trying to build the nucleus of a strong,mature roster….we had many young players and average league experience was three to four years in the NFL. We were going against older, more seasoned veterans in our division.
What would surprise fans most about those Steelers teams and the players on them?
Our objective, I believe, was to live up to a description in the sports nation as a persona of tough steel workers, blue collar attitudes, rough and tumble team/fans. We wanted to personify the culture at that time in the 60’s.
You were with the team for Chuck Noll’s first season as a head coach. How did the team adjust to Coach Noll and how difficult of an adjustment was it for the players?
When Coach Noll came in…he took over the offense, defense and special teams. He was more of a teacher of the game, not highly excitable and installed a new offense. The offense was totally new to me as we had been running the Green Bay Packer offensive scheme under Bill Austin. Compared to the former one….this had twice as many plays and nuances than Coach Austin had used.
In the end, we had the feeling as a team he was going to be successful in his goals and visions for the franchise. I loved his offense…it complimented my passing abilities and wished I could have stayed to learn more about his successful system.
Despite having a good rookie season, you still struggled to get time behind quarterback Dick Shiner. Then in 1969 Noll drafted Hanratty and started him on occasion. How frustrating was that for you – you seemed to play as well as any of the quarterbacks on the roster?
After my rookie year I thought I had played well enough to be considered a consistent starter for the future. It was frustrating to split time with the other QBs, not being able to develop my personal skills and be an asset in an exciting offense with Coach Noll’s leadership.
Who were the players in the late 60’s that were the real characters and acted as the locker-room leaders – and how did they do so? Any examples?
Bill Saul, Paul Martha, Dick Hoak, Brady Keys, Roy Jefferson. Roy Jefferson was the “Frenchy” Fuqua of the 60’s….
What’s are some of your fondest memories of playing for the Steelers?
One of my best games in 1967 was against the Dallas Cowboys in which I set a completion record that stood for many years. I completed 28 of 34 passes. Coach Landry made that complimentary statement about me after that game.
One of the best memories while a Steeler was before my 1st start…..Bart Starr sent a telegram to the locker room wishing me luck on my game. He had been my mentor my first year in the NFL.
An injury to your right hand (actually ruptured tendons of a finger) helped end your career. How did the injury occur, how is the hand now, and has the NFL done enough to help the veteran players who suffer from the injuries sustained playing the game?
I was with the Chicago Bears and we were playing the 49ers in San Francisco….I went back to pass, was sacked, fell back and landed on my right hand. Eventually having it operated on while I was with the Houston Oilers in 1972. It works well playing golf….which all that matters now!!
I think the new negotiations with the CBA agreement will do more for those veterans who played for less money, inadequate equipment and who played for the love of the game. It will never be enough monetary reward for all the guys that played in the 50’sand 60’s.
What do you think of the way the game has changed today – would you have loved to play in the new pass-friendly NFL?
I would love to play in the new pass friendly NFL b/c they throw the ball 50 to 60 times a game compared to 15 to 20 when I played.
The players are stronger, faster and the best part the offensive line is bigger…never bigger enough for us QBs! Although there seems to be more injuries today than the 60’s and early 70’s b/c of the speed of the game and size of the players.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I would like to take this opportunity to say that I enjoyed being a part of the Steeler family. Especially am proud to have played for the Rooney family who I consider the best owners in NFL history. I appreciated all they did for me during my three years in Pittsburgh. They will always be my favorite team. Our home town here in Fort Worth was proud to host them during the Super Bowl….they practiced at TCU, my alma mater!