Comeback Off The Plains: Looking back on Bo Nix’s incredible journey ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft

The “Comeback On The Plains” is one of the most fascinating stories in recent SEC college football history.

Mississippi State and Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense turned heads as the Bulldogs overcame a 28-3 deficit to ultimately defeat Auburn, 43-34.

But one of the biggest storylines of it all was quarterback Bo Nix’s season-ending injury, which was met with condolences from the entirety of the college football landscape.

It was a dark time but it would be the starting point of something that can only truly be called “The Comeback Off The Plains,” which would prove to be an even longer-lasting and more profound storyline.

Once flying under the radar, only a few had a clue that Nix would soon skyrocket into a Heisman Trophy candidate in the first-round NFL Draft conversation.


Bo Nix entered the transfer portal and officially announced his commitment to Oregon in December of 2021, embarking on a new journey for both himself and his wife, Izzy.

He loved Auburn, and had his fair share of success in the SEC – winning SEC Freshman of the Year, leading the Tigers to a 2019 victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl and directing victories over five ranked SEC opponents across his nearly three seasons, but says he simply needed to part ways for a “different experience.”

He was received well by the Oregon staff, as offensive coordinator Will Stein clearly remembers.

“From the minute he stepped on campus, he was accepted for who he is. I think Dan (Lanning) is a low ego guy and he accepted everything about Bo,” Stein said.

He came with his flaws, Stein notes, but there was more than just a solid foundation to work with. His potential was able to come out more in an environment he felt comfortable in.

“Nobody is perfect and I think his situation at Auburn was that he was trying to be perfect,” Stein said. “He was able to be himself out at Oregon. He was away from family, away from close friends, able to really just hunker down and focus on being great every single day. And he was.”

Many were skeptical about Nix due to the ups and downs and overall lack of consistency he and the Tigers had as they struggled to find their rhythm. But factors beyond Nix’s control played a role – including two head coaches and three different offensive coordinators in his three years with the program – and playing several games in his final season on a broken ankle. With full health and more stability in Eugene, he found a steady rhythm in no time and completed 71.9% of his passes for 3,593 yards with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

He only built upon that in 2023, completing 77.4% of his attempts for 4,508 yards with 45 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.

It was a stark contrast from his time at Auburn, where his completion rate varied between 57.6% and 61% in season totals.

There were a lot of things that went into that rise, Nix says. Freedom and flexibility within the offense were the name of the game. When Nix was given more on his plate, he progressively played better.

“It was all about having the answers and having the ability to find solutions to the problems and get us in the right play or to get the ball to the right spot,” Nix said. “Once I had that, I started playing really good.”

The Oregon offense is a West Coast type of system that demands plenty of the quarterback both pre-snap and post-snap. It’s a complicated system that takes a high football IQ to thrive in, and Nix put in the work to go with it.

So much so that Stein would at times ask him if he needed a break. He describes Nix as having something of a coach’s mindset and describes having Nix as the quarterback he got to work with in his first year at Oregon as a “dream come true.”

“He always stayed up late with us… On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights, sometimes I’d be like, ‘Hey, do you need to go home and see Izzy or anything?’ and he’d be like ‘Nah, she’s good, she knows,'” Stein said.  

Nix brought everything Stein wanted in a dual-threat quarterback to the table, but it was his leadership ability that impressed more than anything. In addition to staying up late with the team and the coaching staff, he would take things into his own hands at times, including holding protection meetings on Wednesday nights. 

“He holds people accountable, shows up every day prepared, practices his tail off every single day,” Stein says. “He’s demanding as a teammate, but not in a demeaning way…. When he might call them out, they respect it. And he respects other people talking to him in a way that good teammates hold others accountable.”


Nix and Oregon’s final run together ended in the Ducks falling just short of a College Football Playoff berth, though it’s interesting to wonder if they may have gone all the way if they had made it in. The 34-31 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 title game could not have been closer and more tightly fought.

The Ducks got everything they could have hoped for and more in Nix, but he himself knows there are always ways to get better and has taken the time to train with David Morris of QB Country to make himself a more finished product as he prepares to take the field on the biggest stage football has to offer.

“It’s been a fun process, because you really get to focus on yourself for a couple of months,” Nix said. You’re not necessarily a part of a team at the time, so you’re focusing on how you can get yourself where you want to be and what you need to do to grow and develop and do. It’s paid off.”

He’s been working on his mechanics, trying to move from more of a rotational thrower as opposed to an over-the-top thrower.

“Sometimes in the pocket, me specifically, you get a little bit tall and don’t have a whole lot of space to use,” Nix said.

“But it’s really all about using the ground and rotating from the ground up. Being more of a rotational thrower than an over-the-top thrower. When my arm slot moves three quarter a little bit more, I make that transition a little bit better and it looks a little bit easier and feels a little bit easier and I’m not kind of going over my front leg.”

Morris, who has worked with Nix for several years in quarterback training, has noticed a vast progression in the signal-caller from a mechanics perspective.

All of these things contribute to more accuracy, the most important part of playing quarterback.

“He’s always had a very strong arm, so I think he’s become a better touch thrower. I think there’s an art to that,” Morris said.

There’s a repetition process into accomplishing that, and Nix has plenty of those under his belt. It’s shown up in who he is as a pure passer.

“He has done the work and has gotten as good as it gets at it… mechanically, he kind of used to rip with his front side or left arm and then that would kind of lead to a leg lock and just kind of ends up being harder to throw the ball where you want to when you’re locking.”

Nix sees the value in how far he’s come.

“There’s always a better way to do everything,” Nix said.

“Ultimately, your mechanics obviously help with velocity, trajectory, but the main thing is that if you have consistent mechanics, you’re going to be consistently accurate. Accuracy is the name of the game.”


As Nix waits for his name to be called in the 2024 NFL Draft roughly three weeks away, there is no longer the narrative of a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” quarterback who at times ranked in the bottom half of the SEC.

His doubters have had to find something else to nitpick. And the way they’ve done it should almost be taken as a compliment. 

Nix ranked among the best in the nation where completion percentage was concerned in 2023, leading to a narrative that this must all be happening as a result of check-it-down passes and a quarterback-friendly offense that allowed him to pad his stats. But those who have been around him and those who have watched the tape know better.

The proof is in the film.

“I think (the narrative surrounding Bo Nix is) hysterical. I think it’s a product of ‘they hate us cause they ain’t us’ type thing and I’ll let them say that for the rest of time,” Stein said.

Stein says Nix’s completion percentage is a result of having a quarterback who throws the ball on time and knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball.

And, sometimes, those checkdowns are necessary, even though it’s far from the only thing his offense practices.

“And let’s be honest, the fans like completions,” Stein said. “So, check-down sometimes is not a sign of weakness. I tell the players that all the time. If people want to talk trash about a guy who threw for 4,500, 45 touchdowns and three picks, 78 percent completion rate, then I’ll let them do that all day.”

Nix is aware of the narrative but knows what he brings to the table and that people will say what they will regardless. That goes for what’s been said about him through both the good and the not-so-great times in his career.

“Sometimes what they don’t know, they don’t understand, and they can say whatever they want,” he said. “Ultimately, we had three good years at Auburn and three years that I’ll always look back on with a lot of positive memories. Some people just took the narrative and the little bit of bad and just made it bigger than what it was.”

Nix is forward-thinking now as he projects as an early-round draft pick, and he’s determined to prove he can perform at just as high of a level as he did at Oregon in the NFL.

His goals are just as lofty. But he’s proven he can meet them before. Nix says his end goal is to win a Super Bowl — hopefully multiple — though he recognizes how difficult and rare that is to do.

“Wins are always tough to come by, and it’s a big, situational opportunity. It matters a lot what situation you get in,” he said. “But I think there’s always a chance and every given Sunday, you go out there to compete to win. It’s the ultimate challenge in the game, the biggest stage.

“Now, you’ve got a chance to go out there and see what you’ve got.”

Story originally appeared on Draft Wire