News | September 20th, 2021
D’Cota Dixon – Playmaker, on and off the field.
When you are growing up, you always have a favourite player. I was born into a fanatical Stoke family and went to my first game in April 1977 age 7 with my mum and gran (who loved the crowd violence almost as much as the football!). Stoke beat Leeds 2-0 with Garth Crooks scoring both, so it was always going to be Crooksy who was the top man for me (until he was sold to Spurs anyway!).
As you get older you grow out of favourites, but occasionally you do encounter athletes who make a deep impression on you for their character and skill on the field.
My wife, who is from Milwaukee, is a former University of Wisconsin cheerleader and we used to go to a lot of Badgers college football games, both at home and on the road, when we lived in New York.
Back in September 2017 we were sat behind the home benches at Camp Randall Stadium and noticed one of the Wisconsin defensive backs was not only making huge plays on the field, but also ripping up and down the sidelines encouraging others, even guys on the offense who weren’t involved in a particular play.
This was our first encounter with D’Cota Dixon, watching him pester massive offensive lineman on the sideline one minute, then shedding a block and sacking the quarterback on his own one-yard line the next. It was a magnificent spectacle of both energy and execution.
D’Cota’s backstory turned out to be one of growing up in a poor and complex background, in an unforgiving Miami neighborhood. He spent much of his childhood in a home where rats gnawed through the plastic boxes that sandwiches had been left in for his dinner: a degree of deprivation that few of us in the UK can imagine. Driven by a developing belief in God he overcame major anger issues, to becoming an example for everyone at the University of Wisconsin and beyond.
He was given the most prestigious national award in college football in 2018, the Jason Witten award for ‘Man of the Year’. The annual honor is given to a Division I player who exudes “exceptional courage, integrity, and sportsmanship both on and off the field” in his “record of leadership.” It doesn’t get any better.
Although on graduation he went into the NFL and signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and made the roster, D’Cota had lousy luck with injuries and is now a free agent.
Lori and I met with him after a road game at Illinois and we developed a friendship. D’Cota and I used to correspond often on a wide range of topics from Wisconsin football to the Christian faith, but with us having moved back to the UK, the frequency of those interactions has diminished.
For me he will always be the main man: for his skill and commitment on the field, love of the game and the way he turned a terrible start in life around to become the most respected man in America’s most watched sport.
We could all learn something from him, and as much as I loved Garth Crooks’s goals and friendly personality, D’Cota Dixon truly is ‘The Playmaker’ for me.
Enjoy your week.