Nixon Flirts With NFL Record in SI’s ‘100 Bold Predictions’

Can Keisean Nixon take advantage of a major rules change to break a Packers legend’s NFL record for kickoff-return touchdowns?
Green Bay Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon (25) celebrates scoring a touchdown on a kickoff return against the Minnesota Vikings on January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon (25) celebrates scoring a touchdown on a kickoff return against the Minnesota Vikings on January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. / Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 1967, Travis “The Roadrunner” Williams returned four kickoffs for touchdowns during his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers.

More than a half-century later, that remains an NFL record (the Bears’ Cecil Turner tied it in 1970). With new kickoff rules meaning new opportunities, could the Packers’ Keisean Nixon threaten that record in 2024?

In his annual “100 Bold Predictions” for Sports Illustrated, Conor Orr predicted the two-time All-Pro would be among the prime beneficiaries.

“The single-season record of four kickoff returns for a touchdown will not be broken,” Orr wrote, “but it’ll be seriously challenged as a handful of NFL players get two and the Green Bay Packers’ Keisean Nixon logs three.”

Last season, the embattled kickoff became the most irrelevant thing in sports since the old-fashioned intentional walk. Nixon was one of only two players who met the 20-return threshold necessary to rank among the league leaders. Thus, Nixon was both first in the NFL and next-to-last with his 26.1-yard average.

In response, the NFL borrowed from the XFL with a totally revised play that should create all sorts of opportunities for an explosive returner like Nixon.

The ball will continue to be kicked at the 35-yard line. Everything else has changed.

The kick-coverage team will line up at the return team’s 40. The kick-return team must start with nine players in the “setup zone,” which is between the 30- and 35-yard lines, with at least seven of those players touching the 35. During the offseason practices, Nixon and AJ Dillon were back deep.

Also important to note:

One, nobody can move until the returner touches the ball. With that and the close proximity between blockers and the coverage unit, it should be easier to create blocks to spring Nixon.

Two, if the kick carries into the end zone on the fly, the return team can take the ball at the 30 instead of the 25. Thus, the kicking team is disincentivized to simply boot the ball into the end zone.

“I feel like they’re changing it for me but I ain’t gonna tell Rich,” Nixon said of special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia said. “But I’m excited. It’s going to be good. They’ve got to give me the ball, so we’re going to see.”

The Packers worked the play every day at practice during OTAs and minicamp.

“Some people think it’s going to be exciting. Some think it’s going to be dull,” Bisaccia said before the start of OTAs. “I think we all have to wait and see, right? But the good part is, because of the proximity of the players, 5 to 6 yards apart, we can practice that a little bit different than we’ve practiced kickoff in the past. So, I think hopefully that will be advantageous to some of us.”

With Nixon, who led the NFL in kickoff-return yards each of the last two seasons and 30- and 50-yard returns the last two seasons, you know which way Bisaccia is leaning.

“Well, we have an exciting guy. He makes it exciting sometimes no matter what,” Bisaccia said. “But I think the exciting thing for us as coaches, and for players that might be at the bottom end of the 53, we didn’t lose the play. So, I think that’s an exciting part is that we still have the play.

“It’s going to be a radical change. It’s going to be the same for everyone. So, I think how we approach it, the glass half full or half empty, in our opinion, it’s half full. It’s going to give guys the chance to keep playing kickoff and kickoff return. And we’re going to do the best we can to be the best at it that we can.”

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.