Triple-threat Hixon Will be Missed

Seldom has a role player ever been so genuinely missed by his teammates due to a season-ending injury. Of course, there are very few role players in the NFL like Domenik Hixon. As the team's ace return man, handling both kickoff and punts, Hixon also proved to be a formidable target at receiver – able to stretch his athletic 6-2, 182-pound frame to make the tough catches when it mattered most.

So when Hixon's right knee buckled in front of thousands of fans at New Meadowlands Stadium during the veteran minicamp in mid-June, a collective gasp was heard around the state-of-the-art confines. Even though he was able to walk of the field with assistance, the worst fear was divulged shortly after: ACL tear, out for the season.

For the close-knit receiving corps, who showed they could collectively rise to the occasion last season after starters Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer left the team, sentiments surrounding Hixon's injury bordered on tragedy.

"It's like a death in the family," star receiver Steve Smith said. "It's like one of your brothers goes down. It's terrible. It's bad when anybody goes down but when it's someone you work hard with and see how much better they have gotten, it's hard."

"Our heart goes out to him," Hakeem Nicks added. "He's a guy who comes in every day and works hard. He leaves it out there every day."

Another young receiver also recognized the devastating blow.

"It hurts because Domenik is a fantastic player," Ramses Barden said. "He's consistent, he's professional and he brings a lot to the table that younger guys can look to and learn from – and even more so, he's a great person."

The coaches were even more emotional than the players regarding Hixon's injury, which is oftentimes a rarity in professional sports.

"It would embarrass him for me to say what he means," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "But to be honest, he is just what you are looking for as a human being, first and foremost. Every day in the meetings, out on the practice field – he is as professional a guy as we have on our football team."

Perhaps it was the humidity, but even the stoic Tom Coughlin, who is usually more drill sergeant than father figure to his players, was affected by the bad news.

"He is a guy that we are all personally very fond of," Coughlin said. "He is completely reliable and dependable; just an outstanding young man. . . . I saw Domenik and told him that first and foremost our concern is for him."

While the Giants will miss Hixon's hard work, dedication, and ability to be the ideal teammate, there's also something else they'll miss: the guy is a playmaker!

His 1,291 kickoff return yards were second in the NFC and sixth in the NFL. Of his 57 returns, 35 of them went for 20 yards or more. Let's put it this way: if kicking out of bounds didn't necessitate a penalty, Hixon would likely never touch the ball.

Despite his whopping 22.6-yard average on kickoffs, Hixon was even more of a monster as a punt returner. Who can forget his 79-yard punt return for a TD against Dallas that broke the game open and secured a 31-24 victory? Hixon's 15.1-yard average on 17 punt returns was second only to the Eagles' DeSean Jackson, who averaged 15.2 yards.

National Football League teams spend countless hours looking for and trying to develop playmakers. The Giants just lost one of the best.

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