It was on the eve of the NFL’s 53-man roster deadline last August that the New England Patriots waived Tre Nixon.
The former Central Florida wide receiver, who had been handpicked by retiring football research director Ernie Adams at No. 242 overall, is closer to outlasting it as his second training camp begins.
“Tre’s worked very hard, too,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters during his pre-camp video conference on Tuesday. “He’s one of the hardest-working kids we have on our team. He had a good spring, had a productive spring.”
Nixon had played 23 snaps on offense and 10 snaps on special teams during his rookie preseason. He caught two passes for 11 yards on three targets — all from veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer on a single drive in the fourth quarter of the finale against the New York Giants.
Upon clearing waivers, a full regular season on the practice squad followed without an elevation for Nixon. The 24-year-old then signed a futures contract in January after a half-dozen other wideouts had seen game action for New England.
“It’s the same things I’ve said about Mac [Jones] — he’s way ahead of where he was last year in terms of his physical strength, speed, quickness, route technique, understanding of the offense, defense, so forth,” said Belichick.
A 2021 depth chart led by Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor now also includes trade arrival DeVante Parker and draft arrival Tyquan Thornton entering 2022. But Nixon will vie for what could become a sixth spot in the coming weeks. He will do so alongside the likes of Ty Montgomery, Kristian Wilkerson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey after the recent N’Keal Harry trade and Malcolm Perry retirement.
“Hopefully, he’ll continue to make progress as we transfer that into competitive on-field situations,” added Belichick. “He has certainly prepared himself as well as he can to do that. He’ll be in a good, competitive situation.”
Nixon ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.81 seconds at his pro day after his final college season was limited to four starts due to a broken collarbone. Prior to then, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound transfer from Ole Miss had started all 13 games in consecutive campaigns at UCF.
He caught 49 passes for 830 yards and seven touchdowns on the way to earning an All-AAC honorable mention as a redshirt junior. Among them, 15 receptions went for 20-plus yards.