For junior Riley Dixon, the dream was to always play for the hometown football team Syracuse University. However, he never thought he would rely on the strength of his kicking leg and not his throwing arm on the playing field.
"It was always a dream when I was a kid," Riley said. "Syracuse was a dream school and something that I've always wanted to do was play college football. I never thought it would be in the punting position but it has worked out and has been a blessing."
The success has thrusted the Christian Brother Academy (N.Y.) alumni to the forefront and has been a bright spot for the Orange entering the second half of the season. The light will get a little bit more brighter this weekend, though, when Syracuse takes on Wake Forest at the Dome. It was announced on Wednesday that starting kicker Ryan Norton has been suspended due to a violation of team rules.
"This position is something that's truly unique," Dixon said. "For the most part, its mental. I started off the season with Northwestern and I had a good game and followed up with a couple not-so-hot games, but it's something that you gotta bounce back from. It's a position that you're expected to be perfect most of the time or at least very good. But it's something that I have really been building my confidence and trying to find my feel out on the field.
Dixon indeed had one of his best kicking games against the Wildcats, booting a career best four punts for a total of 194 yards, including a career long 56 while landing two inside the 20-yard line. Since taking over for Jonathan Fisher, he has established himself as a lethal weapon in the kicking game.
"You watch a football game and there is a lot big athletes out on the field and punting is a position doesn't doesn't necessarily requires size or speed or something like that. More-or-less, it's a technique. That's something I'm still feeling out, narrowing in on and finding my groove."
The transition from quarterback to punter happened in junior high. Dixon got hurt and was prematurely sidelined. Not really knowing what he wanted to do, Dixon kind of fell into the position and in his words, "Kicking kind of found me."
"I actually kicked up until I was nine years old and kind of dropped it because I loved quarterbacking," Dixon said.
With seemingly more time on his hands (or feet, however you want to look at it), Dixon started kicking footballs. The coaches took notice and recognized that this kid had some serious potential.
"I think it was in January that Syracuse came to me and said to me that they could use a punter and said I could walk-on," Dixon said. "It was awesome. From there, it really has been a journey being here, earning a position, it's really been a dream come true.
As for the coaches, Dixon says they have been very supportive and happy with him up until now.
"They pretty much say keep doing your thing, keep your confidence up and keep my focus to where it needs to be," Dixon said.
Dixon will be on display yet again, this time against the Demon Deacons.
"They have been playing well for the most part. We've watched the special teams portion and they are pretty sound. It's something that we are looking to attacking head on and trying are best to keep the special teams on the right path."
For the junior, everything has come full circle, he is finally reaping the benefits of his nose-to-the-grind (had to get a Shaferism in there at some point) work ethic.
"Hard work is something I definitely value in life, something that when you finally make it to a position, it's pays off, but it's not over yet. Hard work is something that you will need your whole life."
Kickin' it with Dixon
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