Coming off a year that saw them struggle to move the football through the air, the New England Patriots made some major efforts to upgrade their pass catching group this offseason. Tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry were added in free agency, as were wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. In the seventh round of the draft, the team then added another wideout.
Tre Nixon is entering the NFL level coming off a productive career at Central Florida (and partially at Ole Miss): playing in 40 career games — including 30 as a starter at UCF — the youngster caught a total of 109 passes for 1,671 yards as well as 13 touchdowns. Nixon put up those numbers despite also missing some time during his senior campaign because of injury.
With that said, let’s take a look at his injury history and find out what it means from the Patriots’ perspective.
2019 (UCF): During an early-October game against Cincinnati, Nixon was shaken up after falling hard after trying to catch a jump ball. He initially remained on the ground but was able to finish the game. Nixon ended the contest with six receptions for 76 yards — including 45-yard touchdown.
2020 (UCF): Before leaving with a broken left collarbone, Nixon put up some impressive numbers in his first game as a senior: he caught four passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech in the first half alone. The injury, however, sidelined him for the next six games and halted his early-season momentum. Nixon eventually returned in late November to play in the Knight’s final three games of the year. He added 15 more receptions for 166 yards in those contests.
What this means for the Patriots
Nixon saw plenty of action during his first three years at Central Florida and proved himself a durable player. His collarbone injury knocked him off course, however, and tested him not just physically but, as he later admitted, mentally as well.
“I found out about myself how mentally strong I really can be because I was in a dark place and I just told myself ‘I’m coming back for Cincinnati,’” he said during a media conference call in December (via Black & Gold Banneret). “And I made that firm. Day in and day out, that’s the only game I was looking at — Cincinnati, Cincinnati. Ultimately, I came back and I was able to play in that game.”
Being focused on Cincinnati is nothing new in New England, so it is only fitting that the team added Nixon in the draft. On a more serious note, though, the team is apparently feeling good about his physicals: if the Patriots worried about any long-term effects from the collarbone injury, they likely would have shied away from taking a late-round flier on the 23-year-old.
Accordingly, the ailment should not be an issue as Nixon will try to transition to the NFL game and carve out a spot on New England’s roster.