By Daniel Hill
When he was coming out of Midway High School in nearby Hewitt, Baylor junior nickel back Ahmad Dixon could have chosen to go to pretty much any school in the nation. He was ranked as the No. 15 national recruit by ESPNU 150 and had scholarship offers from Alabama, Texas, USC and pretty much everywhere else in between. Instead of bolting for a glamorous, prestigious program, Dixon decided to stay home and head to Baylor, who was just coming off of a 4-8 season.
Even back in high school, his former Midway High School and current Baylor teammate sophomore wide receiver Levi Norwood recognized the heart that Dixon pours into football.
“Yeah, the year I played with him in high school, I definitely saw that emotion out of him and it’s been like that ever since,” Norwood said. “He always leaves everything out there on the field and gives it his all.”
“Coach Briles, he brought his staff here believing in each other and putting it into each player’s head that we are going to be a good team,” Dixon said. “Everybody, even when I was coming on my visits, would tell me, ‘Hey man, we are about to turn this program around. You need to come here. You need to stay home and help us do this. It’ll mean a lot to the community to see us do that.’ I just felt like ‘Why not do this?’ I mean why not bring this city and these fans everything that they’ve been wanting.”
Last season with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at quarterback, Baylor enjoyed an exceptional 10-win season. This year, with senior quarterback Nick Florence at the helm, the offense hasn’t skipped a beat. Florence is quick to acknowledge the team aspect of the game and he is thrilled to have Ahmad Dixon on his team.
“You want a guy on your defense who is loud and rowdy and rallies guys up,” Florence said. “He’s a real friendly guy who talks to everybody in the locker room and makes conversation. He brings a voice to the team and is a skilled athlete. He loves the game and has a passion for it.”
When Dixon arrived at Baylor’s campus in the summer of 2010, the main goal for the football game was just to make it to a bowl game. That season, the Bears went 7-6 and lost to Illinois in the Texas Bowl. It was Baylor’s first bowl game appearance since 1994.
“When I first got here, the key point was getting to a bowl game,” Dixon said. We got into a bowl game. Then the next thing we wanted to do was win the Big 12. We didn’t win the Big 12 my sophomore year, so we wanted to get the best bowl game we could possibly get. So you know, this season we were saying that we would be the Big 12 champs because we made a bowl game, we made a good bowl game the year before, and now we were aiming for the Big 12 championship. Each and every game that we lost, that we took an ‘L’ with, were each within seven points. I mean we might have had maybe one or two that wasn’t, but you know that we were just that close with that. With that, it shows us that we actually can do it. We can actually play with these teams that are in the Big 12. That they’re just not that much better than we are like it was a few years ago.”
In just the three seasons that Dixon has been here, it’s evident that the Baylor football program has taken a giant leap forward with three consecutive bowl game appearances. That’s something that had never happened before at Baylor.
“It’s taken a big, great rise,” Dixon said. “Because when I signed here, I was the highest recruit to ever come to Baylor in 16 years. After my class, we started getting two or three top recruits and next thing you know we have the number five or six players in the nation coming to Baylor just to visit and to come check us out. I know that’s something that’s changed since I’ve been here. Even with me living in Waco, I don’t even remember having a top recruit visit Waco. I’ve seen this program grow very quickly. I mean, it’s grown in the right direction. What coach Briles has done here is tremendous. He’s been patient.”
While Baylor has been enjoying unprecedented success on the gridiron, Dixon believes the program can reach even further heights, such as a Big 12 championship and eventually a national championship.
“We are putting together the pieces,” Dixon said. “Yes, we want to win a national championship. Yes, we want to make an appearance in that but the main thing first that we have to get is the Big 12 championship. We know that if we get the Big 12 championship, then us being a national contender will come into effect- because we would end up getting guys to come here. We would get the recognition that we need and all of that kind of stuff and it will help us out.”
Dixon has been a central figure in the rebirth of Baylor football. Along with Briles’ recruiting and the positive attitude and attention Baylor football has received, Baylor should be competing for a Big 12 title soon enough.