And Monday evening allowed Dixon one more time to shine for Mississippi State, when he was presented the Conerly Trophy signifying his selection as the premier college football player in the state of Mississippi for 2009. The Bulldog senior running back won this year’s award from a formal field of ten candidates representing the state’s four-year college football programs, though realistically the prize came down to the finalists trio of Dixon, Ole Miss back/end Dexter McCluster, and Adam Shaffer of Mississippi College.
The capacity crowd at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame not only applauded Dixon’s choice but gave the metro-area native a standing salute after his typical big-grinning acceptance talk. He thanked parents, Coach Dan Mullen, State assistant coaches, and senior teammate linebacker Jamar Chaney who also made the trip to receive the Senior MVP Award for Mississippi State presented by the Jackson Touchdown Club earlier in the evening.
“And these dudes up here,” said Dixon of the nine other candidates he’d out-run for the big prize. “My competition, they pushed me! I don’t know man,” he added as the essential Bulldog beloved as ‘Boobie’ came to the fore. “I’m just so happy…that’s about it!”
Of course there was much more to be said before and after the Trophy was announced and presented. Mullen, who had the interesting privilege and, usually, pleasure of coaching Dixon for this 2009 senior season, did more than just talk of Dixon’s feats as a Bulldog and qualifications for this honor. He offered some personal back-story.
“When I took the job almost a year ago, one of the first things I did was give Anthony a phone call,” Mullen said. “It wasn’t one of the nicest phone calls he’s ever got.” Because the new boss had some strong words for the consensus best ballplayer on the Bulldog roster; perhaps exactly because of that in fact.
“Yeah, I remember it well, it was like talking to an army general!” Dixon recalled. “I kind of felt like he had heard some not-so-good things about me and I was like ohhhh, man, the new Coach don’t like me! But I started talking to him even more we kind of got past that. I told him some of the things, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t a perfect human being, I wasn’t trying to tell him I was, I was telling him I had thing to work on. He was like he was going to help me as long as I wanted to learn.”
The rest is certainly program history; for that matter a slice of SEC history as well. Despite drawing an opening-game suspension for a summer non-football incident, Dixon made the most of his eleven other senior opportunities to break the season rushing record with 1,391 yards. All were earned against D-IA programs, and all but three of those games were against teams nationally-ranked at some point this fall as Mississippi State battled what is generally regarded as the toughest regular schedule of ’09.
That single-season mark gave Dixon the ‘triple crown’ of Bulldog runners, along with his single-game record of 252 yards this year at Kentucky, and the career record of 3,994 yards in four seasons. He also extended his career records for rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and total points and ended up in the SEC top-ten in all those career categories.
Not so coincidentally, in winning the season and career rushing marks he surpassed the two previous Bulldog backs who had also won the Conerly Trophy: James Johnson and 1998 and Jerious Norwood in 2005. In a real sense it was Norwood’s place that Dixon assumed from 2006 to present. But Boobie did more than just follow in a fellow Mississippi grid star’s cleat-steps, he made his own place in state football history.
“When you’re a kid and see this on TV you be like one day I want to be that person, I want to be in that spotlight. It’s like my whole senior season, things that I always wanted to be as a little kid, it’s all coming true.”
Maybe the only people smiling bigger than the Trophy winner were proud family members and a first-year head coach with his own justified pride. If that first phone-contact wasn’t so nice, “We hit it off,” said Mullen, who never found any fault in Dixon’s work ethic in spring, summer, pre-season and real season. It certainly helped the coach keep the ‘Boobie’ side of Dixon in context; even come to love it as much as Bulldog teammates do. “When he walks in a room he makes everybody better,” Mullen said. “He’s a great person. He’s a really great person.”
“Yeah, I think me and him got a good relationship now!” Dixon agrees. “Every time we talk I get the feeling we’re friends and we’ve got love for each other.”
Monday’s presentation means that Dixon has had his hands on two trophies within three days, as he got to take a turn carrying the Golden Egg around Scott Field on Saturday afternoon following Mississippi State’s 41-27 whipping of Ole Miss. General consensus was that how the respective squads’ star players performed, and the final score, would settle whether it was Dixon or McCluster winning on Monday. After his career-concluding victory Dixon responded to the query that yes, he thought he should win the Conerly too.
Monday evening he also agreed that maybe the Egg Bowl was the deciding factor between two worthy candidates. “I think that had a little to do with it. You never know about that stuff. I’m just happy right now. I definitely wish I would have been in a bowl game this year, I’d trade this trophy for that any day and another week with the crew and have fun. But it is what it is so I’m just enjoying this right now.”
Safe to say he’ll also enjoy showing off his very own trophy to teammates. Though that ’50-pound dumbbell’ crack did remind Dixon he’ll be back in the weightroom soon enough. Because there is a new game ahead, spring combines to prepare for and pro scouts to impress. Dixon said he might take it easy for a week or two as he wraps up the fall semester. “Then probably let my body heal a little bit, I’ve got a couple of aches. After that get back to work and try to get better, maybe lose a couple more pounds and try to be a better player.”
Well, since he did raise the subject: for the very last time as a Bulldog, Anthony Dixon just had to be asked the same question sent his way for the last four years. What does he really weigh?
“I think I’m around the 235 range right now,” he grinned. And why not, on an evening where everyone who cares for Bulldog football could smile. Because finally, Boobie has his prize.