Technically, Trot Nixon came within one day of becoming a two-sport star at NC State.
In reality, he never actually got that close.
As much as he relished the opportunity to play football and baseball at the college level, the Wolfpack never had a chance once the youngster from Wilmington was drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the seventh overall pick of the 1993 Major League Draft.
It just took a while, right up until the deadline for him to enroll at State, for him to sign his first professional contract.
“If I would have gone to class the next day, then I would have become a student and things would have moved on. But I can’t say that I was within hours of that happening,” Nixon said. “I don’t think it was a situation where I was waiting so long to cash in on more money from a signing bonus.
“I really wanted to be a part of NC State’s football and baseball programs and be a student on campus, and I was serious about it. But the biggest thing was just how much I really wanted to play professional baseball. That outweighed everything.”
All things considered, Nixon made the right choice.
If the World Series ring he wears on his finger wasn’t validation enough, then his selection into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame is.
Nixon was inducted as part of the shrine’s Class of 2021 — alongside a group that included North Carolina football coach Mack Brown, football stars Julius Peppers and Donnell Woolford, women’s basketball player and analyst Debbie Antonelli, retired Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose, longtime Wolfpack Club director Bobby Purcell, legendary UNC track coach Dennis Craddock, high school basketball coach Mac Morris, beloved team doctor Charles Kernodle Jr. and sports writer Tim Stevens — at a ceremony in Raleigh last month.
Former Wake Forest and NBA star Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues was also elected, but his induction was deferred to next year because he was unable to attend the ceremony.
For Nixon, inclusion in the state Hall of Fame is a notable achievement in a career that saw him break the prep passing records of NFL stars Sonny Jurgenson and Roman Gabriel, drive in a state-record 55 runs in leading New Hanover High School to a 4A baseball championship while earning state Player of the Year honors in both sports, before going on to play 12 productive seasons in the major leagues.
But it’s not even close to being the highlight.
That happened in October 2004, when Nixon and his Red Sox teammates fashioned one of the great comebacks in sports history on the way to ending the team’s infamous 86-year World Series “curse.”
Down 3-0 and on the brink of elimination against the rival New York Yankees, Boston rallied to win four straight games to win the American League pennant and advance to the Fall Classic.
There, Nixon batted .357 with three doubles and three RBIs in leading the Red Sox to a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. He clinched the emotional victory with a two-run double in the deciding game.
“That postseason felt like we won two World Series,” Nixon said. “First we beat the Yankees to get there after being down three games to nothing. Then going into St. Louis and beating them, it was kind of like the old snowball effect. Everything was just working for us. From a baseball standpoint, that’s my highlight.”
Nixon played most of his career in Boston, primarily patrolling right field in Fenway Park before spending his final two seasons with the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets. In 1,092 MLB games, he hit .274 with 222 doubles, 137 home runs and 555 RBIs.
He is so beloved by Red Sox fans that he was invited back to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for a game in the team’s 2018 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
Now that he’s retired, Nixon has gravitated back to his other sports love by hosting a weekly Friday night high school football highlights show on a television station in his hometown.
“It all worked out,” he said. “I never really expected to be a first-round pick. I was just a kid who enjoyed playing. I was a kid that got to live out the dream.”