Overcoming Adversity: A Q&A With Cowboys’ DE Marcus Dixon
As fans, we often know so much about our favorite players without actually knowing them. We can rattle off their 40-yard dash times, college stats, and on-field strengths and weaknesses, but we truly know little about the people under the pads. This is a modest attempt to get to know one Cowboys player, defensive end Marcus Dixon, just a little better.
Cowboys’ DE Marcus Dixon spent last year on the practice squad. With defensive ends Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, and Jason Hatcher all restricted free agents, Dixon has a tremendous opportunity to take a huge leap forward in the coming seasons. The Cowboys may or may not retain all three of these RFA’s, but Marcus is ready to seize any opportunities he is given, planning to join the defensive end rotation and contribute on special teams.
Intelligent and an athletic freak, Marcus has all of the tools needed to thrive in the NFL. But it is his work ethic, his positive spirit, and his ability to respond to adversity which will be the core of Marcus’ journey to become a starting defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
Dixon will be the first to tell you that he is still a long way away from where he wants to be and has by no means “made it.” But Marcus has been in this situation before.
Downtrodden. Written off. An underdog.
When the situation seems toughest, though, Marcus has learned to thrive. While others sulk when times get tough, Dixon has learned to work even harder. His past, like anyone’s, has not been all smooth sailing. These experiences and his ability to overcome life’s obstacles, though, are the reasons why he cannot be counted out. In a way, his past is his future.
I recently spoke with Marcus regarding his journey to the NFL, the upcoming season, and his future goals.
Q: How is your offseason going?
A: My offseason is going pretty well. I went home for about three weeks to spend time with family friends.
Q: When do you plan on starting offseason workouts, and what sorts of things will you be doing?
A: I plan start up with a lot of cardio this week. Last year I worked out too hard too early. Joe (Juraszek), our strength and conditioning coach, told me not to do that this year. I’ve been doing cardio stuff and stretching, and I plan to hit the weights next week.
Q: Do you eat healthy? How much does the team watch your nutrition?
A: I’m not the best at eating super-healthy, but I try my best to be conscious about what I eat. The coaches let us know that what you put in your body is what you get out of it.
Q: What is an average day like for you during the season? How much time is spent studying film, working out, practicing, etc.?
A: During the season, my day starts at about 7 a.m. I usually hit the weight room, shower, eat breakfast and then head to an 8 a.m. Special Teams meeting. We have more meetings after that, then a walk-through. After that comes lunch and practice, followed by film study after practice. After film study (which generally ends around 5 p.m.), I go home.
Q: How has your past influenced you as a player and person today?
A: My past has definitely taught me not to take anything for granted. I’ve definitely matured over the years and become mentally tougher. I am still grinding and trying to get better everyday.
Q: What sorts of things do you enjoy other than playing football?
A: I personally love to watch movies, go to Chili’s, go bowling, and just kick it with friends.
Q: How disappointing was it to go undrafted? Have you used that as motivation?
A: It was disappointing but I was still blessed to have an opportunity to play the game I love so much. I try not think about not getting drafted, but instead think about what I’m going to do with the opportunity I have now.
Q: Six teams made offers for you, but you signed with Dallas. What made the Cowboys the best fit for you?
A: (Former Cowboys’ Defensive Line Coach) Todd Grantham played a big role in getting me to Dallas. He told me he loved the way I play and the fact that I’m raw with a lot of potential. He told other members of the Cowboys’ organization to not look at my numbers, but simply to give me the opportunity to play on even ground with others.
Q: What are your goals for the 2010 season?
A: My goals are to be healthy the whole season and become a rotational player at DE. I would also like to become one of the core special teams players. I am really looking forward to being a big contributor this year.
Q: With DE’s Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, and Stephen Bowen all restricted free agents, do you see this season as a big opportunity for you to make the roster? How has playing behind those guys helped you thus far?
A: There is definitely a big opportunity there for me, and I am really excited about it. Playing behind those guys has been the best. They all treat me like their little brother. They are always coaching me up and encouraging me. I really love those guys.
Q: You originally committed to Vanderbilt over Georgia. Why did you make this decision? Are you happy you ended up at Hampton?
A: I chose Vandy because of the program’s tradition and, at the time, their 100% graduation rate. I felt like I was about to go to Harvard but still play great football in the SEC (Laughs).
Q: You had a tremendous 3.96 high school GPA, a 3.33 GPA at Hampton, and you were a regular on the Dean’s List. How were you able to juggle football and school so well, and how is it different now being able to concentrate solely on football?
A: My grandmother told me at a young age that I couldn’t play ball unless I took care of my school work first, so it kind of stuck with me. It’s great to just focus on football because you can really take a deeper look into your skills and development without having to worry about writing a four-page paper for a class.
Q: Coming out of college, scouts questioned your speed. Did you see this as your biggest weakness, and if so, how have you worked on your speed since entering the NFL?
A: That was definitely a weakness. I was always quick, which they knew, but I just didn’t test good in the 40-yard dash. They should time me now (Laughs). But working with the strength and conditioning coaches has really taken my abilities to another level.
Q: In addition to football, you also played basketball, baseball, and did track and field in high school. Was football always your favorite?
Basketball and baseball were actually my favorite sports growing up, all the way up to my 10th grade year. My sophomore year is when I received my first football questionnaire. After that I knew football was my sport and I could really be great at it. I really like the physical part of the game and the way you and your brothers go to war as one on the field. You gotta love the game of football.
Q: What is one thing you want all of your fans to know about you?
A: One thing they should know is that I’m a neat freak. I always know when something has been moved.
With such great intelligence and focus, Marcus Dixon is the sort of person that will succeed in whatever field he finds himself in. We fully expect Marcus to make the 2010 Dallas Cowboys roster and contribute at both defensive end and special teams.
You can find Marcus on Twitter: @marcusdixon92