Keeping the Faith

When Coach Ruffin McNeill set out to recruit McKinner Dixon out of Lufkin, Texas, he knew that he was going after a special player. A four star defensive end with offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, and Texas, the Red Raider staff realized just how much of an impact Dixon could make on the defensive line.

When Coach Ruffin McNeill set out to recruit McKinner Dixon out of Lufkin, Texas, he knew that he going after a special player. A four star defensive end with offers from the likes of Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, and Texas, the Red Raider staff realized just how much of an impact Dixon could make on the defensive line.

Despite all of the hype that surrounded Dixon, when Coach McNeill visited, he was more interested in talking with another member of Dixon's family- his mother. "When I went to McKinner's house, I didn't care about him, and I told him that; I wanted to see the momma... and get to know the family."

McNeill's strategy paid off, and Dixon decided to commit to Texas Tech early in his senior year and remained solid despite receiving pressure to reconsider from powerhouse football programs.

Dixon didn't disappoint, making an immediate impact during his freshman year and being named to the freshman All-American team. He seemed poised to lead the young defensive unit to success, but lost his chance when he had to transfer to Cisco Junior College after failing to make adequate academic progress.

Fast forward 2 years, to a press conference where a more mature, more appreciative McKinner Dixon has just signed his letter of intent to play for Texas Tech and Coach Ruffin McNeill, who has recently been named Defensive Coordinator, looks on with pride.

McNeill explains that despite the disappointment of Dixon's early departure, he never lost faith that he would be back in a Red Raider uniform. "When McKinner was being recruited, he was one of the most highly recruited players in the country. When he committed to Texas Tech... he stuck with his commitment to Texas Tech. And I had no hesitation about him coming back to Texas Tech."

Although it's been a long road to get back to Lubbock, Dixon's journey is just beginning.

McNeill expects Dixon, who according to Head Coach Mike Leach is in "as good of shape as he's ever been in," to pick up right where he left off.

"Now what he means to us is that he's a play maker that's up front... And he's an impact guy, and I have a lot of confidence in McKinner. He knows that he's a leader and I expect him to be a leader, and I'm expecting him to be very productive for us on defense. I told him that too."

And what makes Coach McNeill so sure that he'll be able to make a smooth transition back into his role as a defensive playmaker and leader?

"We want guys... who are willing to do whatever we ask them to do, in the classroom and off the field. And if they do that and they're good football players and they want to be at Tech, they'll be successful. McKinner Dixon's going to be one... Those guys that want to come to Texas Tech have been the most productive for us."

And Dixon seems ready to meet the challenge.

"I like to know that somebody else thinks, or expects big of me because I expect big of myself also. I can't wait to start working with Coach Ruff. As soon as I came in here, it was, 'We're going to get down to business. We're going to work on fundamentals. We're going to blitz.' You know, he's real straight forward. I like that in a coach."

This time around, Dixon realizes just what a blessing it is to be playing for Texas Tech and is determined not to let McNeill, who he affectionately refers to as "Uncle Ruff," down.

"I can't even explain to you how good it feels to be back... I just fell in love with [Texas Tech] all over again. I just really can't wait."


Raider Power Top Stories