MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Anthony Dixon had been eyeing Jerious Norwood’s records from the moment he stepped into Norwood’s shoes.
Dixon, now a senior tailback, was a freshman the year after Norwood left Mississippi State for the NFL. Norwood left his name all over MSU’s record book, leaving as its career leader in rushing yards (3,212) and 100-yard games (13).
On a finger-numbing day at Floyd Stadium on Saturday, Dixon accomplished what he’d set out to do back in 2006: He broke both those records.
He rushed for 135 yards, giving him 3,299 for his career, and it was the 14th time he eclipsed 100 yards. Both marks fell in the first half.
After the game, a reporter asked Dixon when he first thought about breaking the record – as in, when during the game. Dixon, a 6-foot-1, 235-pounder from Terry, took it farther back than that.
“The first day I stepped on campus,” he said. “I wanted to be the best, no doubt. I said if I was going to do this thing, I might as well do it big, you know.”
Dixon needed 49 yards coming into the game to surpass Norwood. He blew past his predecessor with a 57-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a play on which he quickly broke into the clear and then fell across the goal line with defenders on his back.
“I couldn’t do nothing but grin,” Dixon said. “It’s been a grind, man. I definitely done took my fair share of licks, so it’s just a dream come true, man.”
He also had a 1-yard TD run to cap the scoring, somersaulting over the line of scrimmage and landing on his feet in the end zone.
Dixon now has 696 yards on the season and is on pace for his second 1,000-yard campaign. After a 668-yard freshman effort, he gained 1,066 as a sophomore before falling off to 869 last season.
He’s broken the 100-yard mark in five consecutive games, and the other game saw him gain 94 yards.
Taking his licks
When Dixon speaks of taking licks, he’s not just talking about on the field.
When first-year coach Dan Mullen arrived in Starkville, his first impression of Dixon was not a favorable one.
“My first impressions of him were getting his grades from the first semester, which weren’t very good,” Mullen said last week. “I think he’ll tell you my first conversation with him after the phone call, the first time I met him face to face – I talked to him on the phone the first time – he said, ‘I’ve never had anybody talk to me quite like that before.’ ”
Mullen also had issues with Dixon’s weight, which had ballooned to about 255 pounds. He shed about 20 pounds by spring ball.
More licks were ahead, though. Dixon was arrested for a DUI in July, and that cost him the season opener.
He now credits Mullen and the other coaches, specifically running backs coach Greg Knox, offensive line coach John Hevesy and strength coach Matt Balis, with getting him on a better track.
“I really feel like I’m on another level,” Dixon said. “A lot of it’s thanks to them, and a lot of it’s from me, just wanting to be the best personally. I think I just kind of made up my mind to go after the top guys, whoever they is, I’m right behind them.”
And he’s running right on past.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal