A Super Bowl ring.
Almost any boy who has ever played organized football dreams of one day owning one.
SDSU alumnus, Tory Nixon (’86, finance) has lived that dream having played with the San Francisco 49ers in 1989, when the team beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Superbowl XXII.
As so many accomplishments are, the path to get to the Super Bowl wasn’t a straight line. Nixon has consistently found a way to meet his goals, even if he took a detour along the way.
Born in Eugene, Oregon, Nixon moved with his family to Phoenix, Arizona when he was eight. After he completed high school, he enrolled at the University of Arizona in hopes of playing basketball there, but soon left to attend Phoenix College to play as a defensive back on their football team.
Nixon knew he wanted to continue his athletic career and sought to transfer to a four-year university. “After several recruiting trips across the country, I settled on SDSU,” Nixon said. “I felt the athletic program, academic program and quality of life during school and after graduation were a great fit for me.”
A great fit
As it turned out, SDSU WAS a “great fit” for Nixon where he excelled at both athletics and academics. He was named “defensive team captain” by the Aztec football squad and was honored as SDSU’s top Scholar/Athlete.
Nixon chose to major in finance because “I just sort of gravitated to it, probably because it came naturally to me,” he said. His favorite professor during his time at SDSU was finance professor, Pieter Vandenberg, who Nixon said “was patient and understanding, yet a demanding professor – all the qualities needed to teach finance.”
A career in finance would have to wait: Nixon was a second-round draft choice by the Washington Redskins. Shortly before the 1985 season began, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers where he settled in as a cornerback.
Finishing what he started
After he finished his rookie season with the 49ers, he finished his academic career at SDSU by completing his finance degree. Then it was back to the training field in preparation for the 1986 season.
During Nixon’s first two seasons with 49ers, the team went to the playoffs, but didn’t make it to the Super Bowl. That changed during his fourth season in 1988 with a win in Super Bowl XXIII which made Nixon the owner of a coveted Super Bowl ring.
Nixon’s NFL career was halted after suffering a hamstring injury during the 1989 season.
The life lessons he learned during his tenure in professional football are still with him today.
“When I was a player in the NFL, I learned that small details make a big difference, that being flexible and opened-minded is very important, that nothing replaces hard work and above all to enjoy the experience of whatever you do," he said. "I try to remember these things every day in everything I do.”
Today, Nixon works in the commercial banking industry. For the past eight years, he has been with California Bank & Trust and was promoted to division president four years ago.
While his finance degree has come in handy, it’s not the end of his educational experience.
“Commercial banking is an interesting field,” Nixon said. “We interact with some amazingly driven, intelligent, passionate people. I’ve learned so much about so many different industries and businesses.”
After his NFL playing days, Nixon found a profession that was suited to his talents and interests and he encourages today’s SDSU student to look beyond the pay grade when choosing their career.
“The best advice I can give someone in college is to select a career that challenges, inspires and motivates you," he said. "It may or may not come with lots of money, but it should be one that demands your energy, passion and commitment, not just your time.”