Adjusting to new schemes wasn’t the only shift Washington cornerback Travell Dixon had to make.
Dixon is from Miami and went to junior college at Eastern Arizona before joining Alabama a year ago. Last fall, he transferred from Alabama to Washington, where he learned the sun would shine as much as those other places.
“I had to learn what clothes to buy and shoes and stuff,” Dixon said.
Dixon, who will be a junior, carries some intrigue this spring. The departure of Desmond Trufant, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft April 25, has left a starting cornerback position open. After two proficient years at Eastern Arizona, Dixon was one of the highest rated junior-college cornerbacks in the country, which is why the Crimson Tide snapped him up.
He left Alabama because it wasn’t the right fit and had multiple options. A coaching trio on Washington’s staff was a large reason he ended up at Montlake.
Secondary coach Keith Heyward recruited Dixon while working at Oregon State. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was after Dixon while at Tennessee. Defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi tried to get him to Cal.
With those three on the same staff, Dixon thought things had aligned for him to go to Washington.
That’s a different thought than Dixon had when Heyward first reached out to him from Corvallis, Ore.
“He shut me out,” Heyward said with a laugh. “He was big-timing me then. He was a good kid the whole time through. That’s all I ask for is honesty. Either you’re interested in a school or you’re not. Don’t waste my time, please.”
Now, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Dixon has to become refined. He played only one season of high school football, as a senior at Miami Norland High, before going to junior college. Once he joined the Huskies last fall, he redshirted and worked with the scout team.
With one week of spring practice to go, Dixon gives himself a grade of C.
“I’m way better than what I am doing right now,” Dixon said. “Just (need to) get the playbook down 100 percent so my game can really expand.”
He’ll be competing with Marcus Peters, Tre Watson and Cleveland Wallace for a starting spot.
No matter where he ends up, Dixon will be pleased to keep going. His older brother, Yamari, was a free safety at Akron from 2003-06, where he was the Zips’ special teams player of the year in 2006.
But in 2009, Yamari Dixon’s football career ended after he was shot in the forearm and again in the groin at a Cleveland club while celebrating his 24th birthday. One bullet remains lodged in his groin.
He had temporary paralysis in one of his legs before going through rehab.
“I can’t stand up all day, but I’m walking,” Yamari said.
He pushed little Travell when they were younger. When Travell was in preschool, he wanted to be a firefighter. Yamari taught him to say “football player” when the teacher asked him what he wanted to be.
At the start of high school, Yamari tried to teach Travell proper footwork for defensive backs.
Yamari had a tryout for the Canadian Football League lined up prior to being shot.
Now, Yamari hopes Travell can take the steps he could not and make it to the National Football League.
“He knows how much I love football,” Yamari said. “I put my heart and soul into it. To see what happened, to see it taken away from (me), it took me a long time to get over it. The same passion I put into it; I instilled that in him.”
The two brothers still work out together. During spring break, Travell went home and Yamari taped their workouts. He regularly sends video of NFL defensive backs to his little brother.
“He pushed me onto the playing field,” the younger Dixon said. “Not only do (I do) this for myself and my family, but I do this for (Yamari) because it was taken away from him. I’m definitely doing this for him.”