SHERWOOD — There are a lot of things that Luka Nixon likes.
Among them, he likes chasing down quarterbacks and throwing them to the turf.
He likes going up high to snatch down a rebound.
He certainly likes scoring touchdowns.
He likes going up to sink a mid-range jumper.
He likes his teammates.
He likes his coaches.
And he really, really, really likes Sherwood.
"I've lived in Sherwood my whole life," Nixon, a 2017 Sherwood High School graduate, said last week as he looked back on his time at the school. "So, this past year was really big for me. And I definitely had a lot of fun."
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Nixon had a lot of fun as a hard-rushing defensive end and a big-play tight end for the Sherwood High School football team.
He also had fun as the veteran key leader, and as a physical force in the middle — at both ends of the court — for the Bowmen boys basketball team.
"Yeah, I had fun," Nixon said with his usual smile on his face. "It was great. Maybe the best part was the relationships I built."
And the Sherwood football and boys basketball squads certainly seemed to benefit from having Nixon on the team.
"He's a phenomenal teammate beyond anything else," Sherwood boys basketball coach Rahim Tufts said of Nixon. "And the kind of person he is out-shined everything else."
"He's an awesome kid," Sherwood football coach Greg Lawrence said. "He's a smart kid, and a hard-working kid. He's been a pleasure to coach, and he's so polite. He's just a great young man."
And that great young man had quite a senior year at Sherwood High School, earning all-league and all-state honors during the football season, and all-league accolades during the basketball season.
Now, Nixon has yet another honor, as he's been named the Times' Athlete of the Year from Sherwood High School.
The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at Sherwood High School for the 2016-2017 school year.
"It' been so special here in Sherwood," Nixon said. "Especially with football. Everyone who goes through this program lives and dreams it. I had such a good time here. It's hard to let it go."
Nixon certainly seemed to revel in the family culture created with the Sherwood High School football team.
"When I was a sophomore and junior on the varsity, I remember the seniors, how hard they played and how they felt after their last game. That was definitely motivation for my senior year."
"This is a family," Lawrence said. "And Luka was a big part of it. It's sad to see him go."
The Bowmen got off to a bit of a struggling start last fall, during Nixon's senior season. They lost their first three games on the schedule, falling to Westview, Camas, Wash., and West Linn.
"After we lost that first game (a 27-21 home loss to Westview), we weren't too worried," Nixon said. "Then we lost our second game (a 49-7 setback at Camas). And, going back to last year, it was our third loss in a row."
But something happened during that lopsided loss up in Washington.
"I think that game was the turning point," Nixon said. "We figured it out, and we kicked it into gear. We brought our emotion out on the field, and we turned that emotion into something good."
The Bowmen lost their next game, 48-14 at West Linn in a Three Rivers League opener, but they knew they were going in the right direction.
"Every week, we were getting better and better," Nixon said. "But the opponents were getting better. But we had faith in ourselves."
That faith was rewarded.
Sherwood picked up its first win of the season, 53-28 at home against Lakeridge, and the Bowmen wouldn't lose again in the regular season. That winning streak included a 35-20 home win over Tigard, where the Tigers jumped out to a 13-0 lead before the Bowmen scored 35 unanswered points on their way to getting the victory.
"That game was kind of funny," said Nixon, who had a pair of quarterback sacks in that contest. "We were down 13-0, and some of our fans started leaving. We took that personally."
Sherwood opened the Class 6A state playoffs with a 47-26 home win over Century, before falling 48-47 at Sprague in a thrilling second-round state playoff game.
"That game was intense," said Nixon, who had a quarterback sack in that contest. "(Senior running back) David (Morris, who rushed for 292 yards in the game) always tries so hard. He has such a competitive spirit. We were in it the whole game. We were fighting for our lives, and we did our best."
As a towering tight end last fall, Nixon was a big-play target in Sherwood's run-oriented offense. He had 10 receptions for 149 yards, with six of his catches going for touchdowns.
"When we pass, it's pretty much wide open, and it feels good to score," Nixon said.
But, for Nixon, there's something even better than scoring a touchdown.
"I like getting a sack better," Nixon said with a smile. "Sacks are probably the best part of football for me. It feels great. Once you get past the line, it's just you and the quarterback."
And, more times than not, Nixon won that battle, as he had a team-high eight quarterback sacks last fall.
"I love playing defensive end," he said. "I love chasing the quarterback down, and our defensive line coach (Andrew Lee) really knows his stuff."
"He's a great defensive end," Lawrence said of Nixon. "He's got the perfect body type for it, and people don't realize how fast he is. He made a lot of big plays for us, and we're sad to see him go."
Nixon was named the Three Rivers League Defensive Lineman of the Year, while also earning first-team all-league honors on both offense and defense. He was named to the Class 6A All-State first team at tight end, and on the second-team on the defensive line.
One of the big days for Nixon was when he signed his national letter of intent to play college football at the University of California, Davis, in front of a large crowd during a ceremony at Sherwood High School.
His Sherwood teammates, Morris and Joshua Bowcut also signed that day, each committing to Oregon State University.
"David and I have been friends since sixth or seventh grade," Nixon said. "We didn't like each other at first, because we were always competing with each other in every sport. But that brought us together. Josh didn't come here until his sophomore year, but we're all good friends now."
Nixon entered his senior basketball season with two seasons of varsity experience.
But, the rest of the Bowmen roster mainly consisted of inexperienced players, new to the varsity, not to mention a new head coach in Tufts.
"It was interesting, but a fun team," Nixon said. "I saw this year's team as a chance to set up Tufts for success in the future. I think he is a really good coach, and I got close with the team."
That included freshman point guard Jamison Guerra.
"I got super close with him," Nixon said. "He's going to be pretty good."
The young Sherwood team took its lumps in the powerful Three Rivers League, going 5-19 on the season.
"We competed," Nixon said. "Every game, I felt like we could win."
And Nixon provided strong guidance for the Bowmen squad.
"I looked at my self in a role of leadership, and someone for the younger guys to look up to," Nixon said. "And, being the big guy down low, I had to be verbal. Yeah, I had a lot of fun. It was great."
And, he was appreciated.
"He welcomed the younger kids with open arms," Tufts said. "He helped create a culture of family. We want to have the most hugs of any team in the state, and he's the first person to give you a hug."
But the Bowmen opponents probably didn't want to give him a hug.
"He led us in rebounding and blocked shots," Tufts said. "He was able to change the game on both ends of the court. I think we were a strong defensive team, and he was a big part of that. He's a super-coachable kid. I'm going to miss him as a person and a teammate."
Plenty of support
Nixon enjoys plenty of support when he's on the football field and basketball court, and a lot of that support comes from his parents, Rick and Tracy Nixon.
"They both pushed me to be the best I could be," Luka Nixon said. "My sophomore year, I realized they did it for my benefit. That meant a lot to me."
Nixon was also motivated by his older brother, Cole Nixon, who was a football and track standout at Sherwood High School.
"Cole helped push me," Luka Nixon said. "Watching his success excited me."
Cole Nixon was part of the Bowmen 4 x 400-meter relay team that won a Class 5A state track title back in 2013. With that state crown, Cole Nixon earned a spot on the Sherwood High School Wall of Fame.
"After that, I knew what I needed to do," Luka Nixon said. "I had to get all-state in football, so we could both be up there."
There is also a lot of support coming from the Sherwood community.
"Everyone in Sherwood is all into being the best they can be," Nixon said. "Especially with football. It's a whole community thing."
Bowmen to Aggies
Nixon is all set to continue his scholastic athletic career, playing football at UC Davis.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "I love it there. I got close with the coaching staff, and academics is a big thing (Nixon plans on studying Engineering)."
He said that he'll likely play at defensive end for the Aggies.
"I know I'm going to need to get physically prepared, with training and lifting," Nixon said. "And the mental aspect is going to be a huge part. We've got a great recruiting class coming in. We're building from the beginning."
There's something else that drew Nixon to UC Davis.
"When I visited there, I didn't feel like just a football player," Nixon said. "But I felt like part of a family. That was similar to Sherwood."
And that's definitely something Nixon likes.