Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon caught 67 passes in his Buckeye career, but those catches don’t tell much of his story.
His 16 career touchdown catches are as many as OSU all-time receiving yardage leader Michael Jenkins finished with, one more than Ted Ginn, and four more than his receivers coach, Brian Hartline.
But again, those 16 touchdowns only tell you how things ended up for Dixon, not how they got here.
Because it is so different, Dixon’s story has been told many times, and most people reading this will be well aware of it.
For those who don’t know his story, the short way to tell it is that Dixon spent most of his first three seasons missing time due to tendinitis and arthritis in his knees. Healthy the last two seasons, however, he produced each of those 16 touchdowns, and totaled 60 receptions for 1,091 yards.
The story also includes Dixon almost giving up the game entirely.
Dixon played in two games in 2014, five in 2015, and seven in 2016. Following that 2016 season, he thought about quitting. He had been through so many rehabs with so few results and wasn’t sure he wanted to go through it all again.
After conversations with those close to him, including teammate Parris Campbell, he decided to return for the 2017 season.
And really, this is where Johnnie Dixon’s legacy truly begins.
Football is a physical game whose toll is tendons, bones, ligaments, and sometimes much more.
Dixon paid his tolls, but still remained on the highway. He wasn’t done traveling just yet.
With his knee issues behind him, Dixon caught 18 passes for 422 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns in 2017. Included in that were his two touchdown catches in Ohio State’s furious comeback against Penn State.
Had Dixon decided not to return for his fourth year, it’s doubtful that the Buckeyes pull off that win.
Dixon’s determination is a great lesson not just for young teammates struggling through injuries, but it’s a lesson for all of us as well.
Faced with another grueling rehabilitation, quitting would have the easiest thing in the world to do. Instead, Dixon wanted to prove just how far determination can take one person.
Now on the doorstep of fatherhood and with the rest of his life ahead of him, Dixon leaves a legacy at Ohio State that is much bigger than 67 catches and 16 touchdowns.
It’s a legacy of refusal to give up on a dream, but it’s also a legacy of relying on others to help you through your darkest days, because they will lead you to your brightest.
Dixon’s legacy isn’t just about him, it’s also about everyone he has relied upon over the years.
It’s Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin being there for a teammate and encouraging him, but also being there for the difficult times to follow.
It’s Mickey Marotti and his staff getting Dixon back to full strength.
It’s Ohio State physical therapist Adam Stewart doing everything he can to get Johnnie Dixon better than ready.
— Johnnie L. Dixon III (@YoungKing_JD5) September 5, 2018
And it’s also about never taking any of it for granted.
For sure!! Told you guys I had you!! https://t.co/yjmgnsxaS3
— Johnnie L. Dixon III (@YoungKing_JD5) January 2, 2019
Johnnie Dixon came to Ohio State as a prized blue-chip recruit for Urban Meyer, but he leaves Ohio State as so much more. And with so much more.
His football legacy will be the numbers he leaves behind, but his Ohio State legacy will be the people who continue to be inspired by his example.
And those people won’t just be the wide receivers to come, but those fans who watched him play as well.
Every day Dixon wonders what his life would be like if he had quit football, and every day he is thankful that he didn’t.
Johnnie Dixon’s legacy isn’t just his own. And he wouldn’t claim it as such.
Everybody who helped him get back on the field is part of that legacy, and everybody who is moved by his example is as well.
Sure, the 67 catches and 16 touchdowns are nice. They are proof of a job well done.
When people think about Johnnie Dixon, however, they should also think about the brink.
To quit or to fight.
And when people are dealing with their own tough choices, they should think about Johnnie Dixon. Reach out to others, just as he did. Let them help you through the tough times, that way there are more people around to enjoy the good times.
Quitting is a tempting option.
But imagine if Dixon had quit, because he imagines it every day. And every single day, he is thankful that he didn’t.
None of it was easy. But all of it was worth it.
That is Johnnie Dixon’s legacy.
It is his testimony.
Life is tough and rarely fair, but with help from those around us, we can even the odds.
First, however, we must continue the fight.
Only then, can our full stories be told.