The Fast Get Faster

When it comes to advantages over Army on the football field, there's no denying that Navy players have been a step faster than their Cadet counterparts in recent years. And while Rich Ellerson and his staff have been actively recruiting athletes to match Navy's lightning quick skill players, the Cadets weren't able to land speedster Hassan Dixon, who made his collegiate decision this past week.

Sporting scholarship offers from Army, Navy, and virtually the entire Ivy League, Hassan Dixon (Northwest High School, Germantown, MD) had plenty on options to choose from when he sat down to make his college decision last Wednesday. An immensely talented running back and returnman who has been hand-timed in the mid 4.3 second range of the 40-yard dash, Dixon also carries and impressive 3.99 GPA in the classroom. With those kinds of numbers it's not surprising that the Naval Academy came calling to recruit Dixon after his junior season, offering him a scholarship this past fall. Last week, Hassan took the Academy staff up on their offer, and officially committed to playing football in Annapolis.

"I just feel like the Naval Academy is a great school and a great education, and they have a great football program as well," said Dixon, who rushed for just over 1000 yards last season. "It sets me up for the best opportunities for later on in my life, so I thought it was the best choice for me."

At 5-foot-9, 170-pounds, Dixon's combination of size and speed will remind many Navy fans of past Navy slotbacks like Shun White. Like White, Dixon has a background in track and field as well as football, and has been a constant star in both sports for Northwest. In track, he was part of the AAU Junior Olympic team, helping the 4 x 400 meter relay team take home the gold medal in competition during the summer games. Indeed, Hassan's list of accomplishments as a runner is extensive.

As an underclassman at the U.S. Army All American combine in San Antonio last year he was timed at 4.44 seconds (the fastest time posted by a running back) in the 40-yard dash, while he also finished first in the recent Montgomery County (MD) 55-meter dash championship with a time of 6.55 seconds. While he's happy to talk about how his track and field background has helped him rush for 1000+ yards in back-to-back seasons for Northwest, the former Good Counsel (MD) backup made it clear that he wants to be a multi-dimensional back at the next level.

"As far as high school goes, [my game] was primarily based on my speed. But once I get to college I'm going to be training a lot and trying to get more elusive. I want to work on breaking people down in the open field."

Dixon was attracted to Navy for a variety of reasons, although he said that the school's close proximity to his Germantown, Maryland home did not factor into the decision. More important to him was Navy's prestigious reputation as one of the finest academic institutions in the country.

"I think it was the education," said Dixon when asked what the ‘most influential' factor was which led him to choose the Academy. "Just knowing that once I get out of school I'll have a job is important, because during these times it can be kind of hard to find a job. But with a Naval Academy degree it's just like cake, basically."

Asked what field of study he is looking into, Dixon added, "Right now I'm thinking about political science. My ambition is to be a lawyer, so we'll see how that works out."

Another key factor in Dixon's decision was Navy's performance on the field over the past seven seasons. He was especially drawn to the school's current bowl streak, and hopes to continue it in the near future.

"The fact that they go to bowl games definitely interests me," Dixon said. "Ever since I was a little kid, [going to bowl games] has been a dream of mine. So that was a big factor, because I want to play against the best competition possible."

While his official scholarship offer sheet may not stand out like those of fellow Navy commits Vinnie Mauro or Andrew Kinsella, Dixon was receiving serious interest from a number of BCS and nationally recognized programs prior to his senior season, when he said interest cooled off. Acknowledging that some schools, such as Stanford, may have had second thoughts because of his relatively small frame, Dixon did say that even the former National Champion Florida Gators took a long look at offering him as a running back.

"When I had first started at Northwest I had Stanford and some bigger schools like that recruiting me, but when it came down to ‘crunch time' they just changed their minds, basically," said Dixon, who will first attend the Naval Academy Prep School before arriving at the Academy. "But I had schools like Florida and Alabama – but mostly Florida – who didn't care about my size or anything and just looked at me based on talent. But I do feel like some schools questioned my size."

Dixon is still actively competing on the high school track circuit, but he's also gearing up for next season and beyond. After attending the Naval Academy postseason football banquet a few weeks ago with a number of other recruits, he is excited and looking forward to the opportunity to continue the tradition of excellence at the Academy.

"[The other recruits and I] are pretty excited. We've exchanged phone numbers and everything and we're getting ready for next year and the season coming up."

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