A flashlight attached to a gun flickered in Louis Nix III’s eyes, blinding him for the moment and startling the former Notre Dame nose guard to the point that the words the two men hovering over him were saying became indiscernible.
All Nix was trying to do was put some air in one of his back tires that he noticed was a little low after finishing his shift Tuesday night at Cintas in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.
Moments later the 29-year-old was riding in the back of an ambulance to the hospital, having been shot in the chest at a gas station. He shared his story on Instagram that night en route to the hospital.
“Right now surgery is pending,” Nix said Friday in a phone call from his hospital bed. “They may leave the bullet inside of me. That’s kind of — ewww — I don’t know how that’ll go, but they say it’s a delicate situation as far as the bullet being in my (left) lung.
“And then I’ve got a fractured sternum, too. My chest hurts. Breathing ain’t the best, but I’m alive. And I’m thankful to be alive.”
Surgery or not, Nix has been told he’ll remain in the hospital through the weekend then stride into an uncertain future.
“I know I’ll have a job when I am able to go back to it, if I’m able to go back to it,” Nix said.
Nix, self-proclaimed "Irish Chocolate," played for the Irish from 2010-13, He redshirted as a freshman, then ascended to become a standout on the 2012 team that reached the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.
He battled injuries in 2013, then declared for the draft after the season instead of returning to ND for a fifth year. He was still able to keep a promise to his mom, Stephanie Wingfield, to get his ND degree.
The Houston Texans selected Nix in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but multiple knee surgeries kept him from ever appearing in an NFL game for Houston or the three other teams he’d sign with after his initial release. His last contact was with the Jacksonville Jaguars for four months early in 2017.
Nix has seen the security footage from the gas station and now knows the men were trying to rob him.
“They were already there before I pulled up,” he said of the alleged assailants. “There was a guy in the same area putting air in his tires as well.
“When I pulled up, the guys kind of scurried behind the little car wash. And after the other guy left, I pulled up. I had my doors open. I didn’t think anything was a threat. Boom, that’s when they came out.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Department has tweeted out still photos from the security footage of the suspects, and is asking anyone with information on the case to call 904-630-0500 or 1-866-845-TIPS.
#JSO seeks Attempted Armed Robbery/Shooting suspects sought on City's Northside. The two pictured suspects, identified as black males, shot the victim as they attempted to rob him near Airport Center and Main St. Call 904-630-0500 or 1-866-845-TIPS with information on suspects. pic.twitter.com/qZlQRW2AUh— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) December 9, 2020
Years ago, Nix lost his oldest brother, Louis Anthony Nix Jr., who police still consider a murder victim. Nix Jr. was 30 years old at the time. Nix III was just finishing up middle school.
“People heard about it on the radio, and some of them thought it was me at first,” Nix III said back in 2013. “I laughed it off, until I found out it was my brother. I had just seen him the day before. He had given me a couple of bucks to get a snack at school.
“I didn’t cry at the funeral, but when I got home, it hit me and I broke down in my room. I still think about him a lot.”
Nix’s mother has started a gofundme page to help defray the medical expenses and help make up for Nix’s lost time from work. The link can also be found on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/louis.nixiii
“I can feel the love,” he said. “So many people have reached out to be on social media, and I appreciate the support and prayers. My family has been very supportive, too. My brother, mom and girlfriend come by every day to see me.
“They’re mostly worried, though. We don’t know how it’ll go if they decide to keep the bullet in. They don’t know how it’ll affect my everyday life, going forward. We just have to pray everything will be OK.”