Up Close: Justin Dixon

SMITHFIELD, N.C. --- Heading into North Carolina's Junior Day, Justin Dixon suspected that Tommy Thigpen might extend him a scholarship offer.

"He was kind of hinting around about [a possible offer]," Dixon said of the UNC assistant coach. "So I sort of expected it."

Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound jumbo athlete from Smithfield (N.C.) Smithfield-Selma, began communicating with Thigpen roughly two weeks prior to the Junior Day.

"I like him," Dixon said. "We have a strong relationship. I call him about every day. We'll talk for a good 45 minutes.

"Basically, we just talk. [We] talk about getting an education. We just talk about regular stuff. It isn't all about football."

Minutes after receiving the official offer, Dixon conversed with his teammate and close friend D.J. Bunn, who had also been offered, and the duo verbally committed.

"I don't know what it was," Dixon said. "I just liked the atmosphere. And then right there I was like ‘I'm ready to commit.' So that's what I did."

Although he owned only one other offer at the time (East Carolina), Dixon's recruitment was ready to explode, with strong interest from Clemson, LSU, NC State, and South Carolina. That fact alone makes Dixon's decision to verbally commitment so early so surprising.

"It's close to home," Dixon said. "I like the coaching staff when I went up there. I've been talking to Coach Thigpen – I really like him. I just felt like I was at home. It was just a cool place to be."

Regardless, Dixon says his pledge is solid.

Dixon has been invited to attend NC State's Junior Day, but he said he hasn't decided if he'll accept.

Dixon will arrive at UNC as a true jumbo athlete.

"They said they see like three positions that I can play at – defensive end, [middle] linebacker, and running back," Dixon said. "We'll have to see when I get there. Whatever position they put me at I'll play."

Martin feels Dixon will be best suited as a middle linebacker and a pass rush specialist.

"I think if he spends time with Coach Thigpen – as much as he likes him – Coach Thigpen will get a lot out of him," Martin said. "His power and his speed [make him an exceptional middle linebacker at the collegiate level]. He can go sideline-to-sideline.

"And if they have some special situations, like we did, and need a real pass rush it's going to be hard for a tackle to block him."

While he's not truly concerned with his position projection, Dixon does prefer linebacker.

"I just like the contact," Dixon said. "I like to dish out the hits."

Dixon stars at middle linebacker for Smithfield-Selma where he collected 165 tackles and an interception during his junior season.

"He's fierce, fast, sideline-to-sideline – nobody can run around him," Martin said. "When he's on you can put anyone out there to try to run outside and they can't get past him. When we put him at defensive end sometimes to get a rush, he's just too fast for anybody to block him."

Additionally, Dixon plays fullback in Smithfield-Selma's wing-T offense where he specializes as a short-yardage option. As a junior, he rushed for 1,589 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"Offensively, when you give him the ball, he's a battering ram," Dixon said. "But don't let his size fool you, because he can fly."

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