Belle Glades, Fla.--For a player who sat out an entire football season, athletic defensive back Johnny Lee Dixon from Glades Central High School didn't appear to be rusty in the least.
Earning Defensive MVP honors at Auburn's first 7-on-7 team passing camp, Dixon showed that he belongs among the top defensive backs in the South this year with his combination of size, speed and agility.
At 5-11, 175 with the speed to play cornerback and the physical nature that could make him a safety down the road, Dixon is dominant with the ball in the air and uses his 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash to close as well as anyone in the country. Because of that Dixon has drawn attention from schools all over the country. His position coach says that Tuesday night Dixon decided to get his recruiting over by committing to Auburn.
"Johnny is a product where his home situation and life situation hasn't been the best," Coach Stephen Fields says. "He's moving forward and made the progression to be a top athlete. He's worked hard in the classroom and he's decided to be an Auburn Tiger. He orally committed to them Tuesday night."
Dixon is a physical player who controlled his size of the field from a safety position during camp.
Because of his combination of size and speed, Dixon could play anywhere in the secondary when he gets on the Auburn campus. In the mind of Coach Fields, he's a natural free safety though.
"I coached at Lyman Central and was there for four years and I've been here for three years, he might be the best athlete I've ever seen," he notes. "He's unbelievable. Any team that gets ahold of him is going to have a diamond in the rough. Obviously him orally committing to Auburn last night has made that team Auburn.
"I see him as a free safety," he adds. "He actually hits so hard that we have to slow him down in practice. We have probably 10-12 Division I kids on our team this year and he's by far superior to everybody. He hits so hard that sometimes we have to calm him down."
Glades Central Head Coach Willie Snead echoes the sentiments of his staff member when talking about Dixon. Having seen some of the top talent in Florida come through his school over the years, Snead says Dixon has a chance to be a special player for Auburn.
"They're getting a great player," Snead says. "He has a ton of athletic ability. He's got a great attitude and a hard worker. He's a great kid and I think it's a great fit for what they're doing."
For most high school teams last weekend's team passing camp was a time to grow and work on getting ready for next season. While that is true for Glades Central, which won the title, it was even more important for Dixon to check out one of his favorites. Following the trip he says that Auburn was everything he was looking for in a school.
"From when we first laid eyes on the campus I was like, ‘This is Auburn?,'" Dixon tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I have to consider them now. The coaches were telling me about how they were in the top three in graduating players in the country and the two schools over them were private and this is not a private school. I have to consider them because of the education."
Education is important for Dixon because of his past. After playing as a freshman and sophomore on the JV team at Belle Glades, Dixon was set to make a name for himself as a junior, but slacking off in the classroom meant no playing time for the talented defensive back last year. He says that learning process has given him a new perspective in the classroom and makes this summer even more important for him as a player.
"The first thing that crossed my mind is that I've got to get out there and get known," Dixon says. "I have to let them know what I'm really about. I won the defensive MVP of the passing camp so that was a big up to me."
Snead says that the year Dixon sat out was good for him and in the long run may be the thing that proves to be a blessing for him.
"I think that was a major thing for him," Snead says. "He's been offered by other SEC schools (LSU, Georgia, but he felt like Auburn was the best fit for him. The whole process has been a source of motivation for him. He's doing well in school and before he just kind of lost confidence and nobody believed in him. We took him into our program and in the result we allowed him to do the things he can do."
Belle Glades Central will now keep its busy summer schedule going by attending several more passing camps around the South, including both Tennessee and Hoover. Dixon says that coming home victorious is something his team prides itself on and he hopes it continues into next season.
"It doesn't do anything, but basically motivate us to do better and work harder," Dixon says. "It helps to make us stand out for other teams. We do what we have to do to bring championships back to where we're from."