Keisean Nixon is West Coast to the bone.
He grew up in Compton, CA. He played junior college football in Arizona. He hates humidity. But the most West Coast part of his repertoire is his youth football career.
His youth football coach was Snoop Dogg, one of the godfathers of West Coast rap. Snoop runs a football league, and was Nixon’s coach on a couple different teams growing up.
Nixon and Snoop Dogg are still pretty close and talk about every week, and the rapper will even shout out the corner on Twitter.
“That’s every week,” Nixon said. “He talks to me every week. He’s famous to y’all. He’s not famous to me.”
Snoop Dogg's league has produced players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, who currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Super Bowl Champion Ronnie Hillman.
And now, over 10 years later, Nixon is part of the Gamecocks’ West Coast resurrection.
He arrived on campus right as preseason camp started at the end of July and didn’t have much preparation time before being inserted into Will Muschamp’s defense. He spent the first few weeks on campus learning the defense, but one thing didn’t take long to learn.
He still hates humidity.
“We got to spend no time with him as far as the football end of it, the Xs and Os end of it,” Muschamp said. “Also, from a physical standpoint, just being in shape. It's a huge transition coming from the West Coast to the humidity of South Carolina. He complained a lot to me about it. I said there's nothing I can do about it, it's going to be humid here.”
He was originally put at safety, which wasn’t a position he played at Arizona Western Community College, and it was a big adjustment for him. He was moved back to corner soon after that, and is working behind entrenched starters Rashad Fenton and JaMarcus King.
But despite having to wait his turn, the coaches are still high on Nixon.
“He's a natural corner and he's going to be a really good player and a guy that we're really excited about,” Muschamp said. “I'm frustrated for him, because we played him at safety and I really think that set him back a little bit and the timing of him getting in here wasn't what we all thought, including him, so it's been frustrating for him.”
It took some time for Nixon to get adjusted to SEC football (and the humidity), but he’s still taking his time to perfect his game.
He’s made two big plays the last two weeks. He recovered a fumble on special teams against Texas A&M. And against Arkansas he had a chance for a pick six and didn’t drop it like it was hot.
He returned his first career interception 45 yards for the game-sealing score.
“It was big. I hadn’t played much yet, just special teams,” Nixon said. “I tell myself every time I’m in there I have to go make a play. So two plays in two games make me feel good.”
After coming over from community college this season, Nixon has had to adjust to the speed of the game heading to South Carolina.
He was so used to beating teams on athleticism alone, but now he’s learned how to study film and player tendencies to boost his game.
“You can’t just play at this level,” he said. “You have to study. At junior college, I was just playing, dominating. Here, you can’t do that because there are other players that are just as good as you. You have to use your technique more.”
With Nixon playing better and better every week, Muschamp and the coaching staff have to find new ways to put him in the game.
While he’s going back, back to Cali Cali when his playing days at South Carolina are over, he’s found a home right now in South Carolina’s defensive backfield.
It might not be a starting role just yet, but he’s just looking for any chance to prove what he can do.
“When I get my shot,” he said. “I have to go make a play.”