"I'm at least out in the sun with my teammates so they know I'm sweating," Dixon said before the nagging resumed…literally, with trainer Catherine Glass frequently reminding him to pick up the pace. Not to worry about his work schedule or habits this summer, though. "I'll be ready. "We're fixing to hit it hard for another month."
What Dixon won't be hitting so hard this month is the feed bag. Or rather, not as often. Because after a couple of seasons in college competition he's learned that every extra pound packed inside the padding brings along an on-field penalty. Oh, Dixon could play comfortably and confidently at 240; he's proved it. But not for four full quarters. And now with classmate Christian Ducre having shown he belongs in the backfield in fourth-period pressure, along with a pair of talented speed backs in Robert Elliot and Wade Bonner ready to run this fall…well, Dixon has set a tough target for his August check-in weight.
He wants to play much closer to 230. "I had got down to that (in June) and as feeling the fastest, quickest I ever had." Then came a rather explosive Independence Day's dining highlighting a weekend at home in Jackson and a big bounce upwards again. Is Dixon concerned? Not an ounce.
"It's a month to get it and I'm going to get back down there. And I'm going to be ready come the season." Good news, but how exactly will he manage the munching the rest of this month? Dixon has a game-plan to eat by now.
"Really what I've been trying to do is eat baked foods and try to eat three times a day, three good balanced meals a day instead of doing what I was usually doing." Which was, using three meals only as a baseline for the entire day's dining. "I was stringing it out, not eating right, eating snacks and candy bars and chips like it wasn't going to get me!" But of course he knows better.
"Really this year I made up my mind to get more focused on dropping my weight so I can get some more explosion. You know, just get toned-up and try to get right for the next step."
If the next step is any better than Dixon's last, 2008 would be another year for the books that he owns a couple of pages in already. After setting freshman records for yards (668) and rushes (169) he really broke out as a sophomore. On 287 totes Dixon netted 1,066 yards, becoming only the seventh Dog to break the 1K-season standard. He's already 15th in career rushing at State.
But Dixon is far higher on the touchdown list, having run the ball from scrimmage across a goal line 23 times. That's fifth-most ever by a Bulldog, and the record of 27 is easily within reach. Certainly Dixon can see it. "Because I love getting in the end zone," he says.
State fans love seeing Dixon punch across the proverbial plane, too, and nobody on either sideline or cheering section was surprised when A.D. did the honors with the one-yard lunge that won the Liberty Bowl. It's just that there are still those times when the big guy yields to temptation and tries to show he's more than a pounder. That he can skip and scamper in search of the big gainer, when all that the situation requires is a yard or two.
Yes, he's heard the complaints and admits, sort of, that critics have a point. "Ehhhhh, they say a lot of stuff!" is as close to a confession as one will receive. That, and a promise to do better from now on.
"We're just going to get it right this year. Like, Coach Croom is trying to get me to pay more attention to the detals, the little stuff he wants me to do, getting my eyes in the right spot you know." Note that: it's not so much Dixon's choice of fancy footwork in short-yard situations that gets him in trouble. It is a tendency to look for greener pastures, or at least bigger holes, that might not be there instead of focusing on the assigned slot. "It's more so with my eyes," he agrees.
Understand, Dixon will always bring a freer sort of spirit to the huddle than most no matter what the coach says. Croom can even live with some of Dixon's, ummm, creativity. "To a certain point!" the back laughs.
"I'm just doing what I was born to do: play running back! So sometimes I'll get in my ‘running back mode' and that's what I'll be doing. But I'm going to do it like he wants me to this year and focus more because I'm trying to make myself better. I need help to get to where Coach Croom has helped a lot of guys get." As in, to professional football.
"It's just me putting myself in the right situations and doing good on and off the field. Just showing him that from my second year to my third year I've made a definite improvement. I think that's what he really wants to see and I'm going to try to show him. Hopefully that will increase my yardage and increase him praising me for all the stuff I do right!"
Besides, Dixon doesn't exactly have the halfback's job entirely to himself any more. Any program would gladly have an alternate like Ducre able to run out clock and games. And the new kids, Elliot and Bonner, bring a burst of potential speed this backfield needs. Dixon understands that he might well have to share more snaps in a system that is supposedly expanding for 2008's opportunity.
"I believe Coach is going to mix it up and let all of them get their shot. Whoever makes the most plays is who is going to start." Not that Dixon has any doubt who that will be, of course. Nor is he just a take-the-handoff-and-run guy any more, as his 18 catches and two more touchdowns last season showed. By pure coincidence, as Dixon is asked whether he will get more balls thrown his way, quarterback Wesley Carroll passes by…and shakes his head at the halfback's response.
I know they've seen the hands and seen what I can do with it when I catch it!" he proclaims. "So they should be ready to pull it out (in the gameplanning)." But Dixon can be serious, in short bursts anyway, and he's taking seriously the need to set a tone for the whole halfback depth chart. Especially the two redshirt frosh.
"All I can do is give them the information that the guys gave me when I got here. They put me upon film and showed me little things to do, how to get the system down pat. That's what I've been doing with them. I'll give them some tips, you know, we're all in this together. Oh yeah, I'm still up at the top! But I try to help them become whatever they want to become. We all complement each other good. We're all good running backs, just whoever Coach feels should be in there is who is going to be in there."
Except, of course, when the ball is only a stride or so shy of the goal line. Then A.D. knows who is going to be in there, ready to ring up another touchdown. He even has a game script of sorts in mind this time around.
"Me, what I'm going to do is kind of pace the game, how Coach wants it to go. I'm going to get it to where he wants, and he knows without a doubt I'm going to get it in the end zone."
But for now there's another goal for Dixon to reach, if not cross. This week hopefully sees him straining the scales at 240 or so lbs. "I'm going to try to go from there and keep it down, down, down, down, down. I don't think there are any more breaks." Well, except the late July weekend kid brother Rashun—who just signed a pro baseball contract—celebrates his birthday with the typical big family fest. Eldest brother Anthony has to be there, of course.
"But I'm not going to do too much then!"