January 28, 2013 10:58:53 AM
Matthew Stevens - email@example.com
Anthony Dixon has never gone to the San Francisco 49ers training facility with anything but a smile, so you can imagine his feelings about living his childhood dream and getting ready to play in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I just can't wait for this week and then next week because every day I wake up is the best day of my life," Dixon said in a phone interview with The Dispatch. "I mean it, the best day of my life. These are the days you wake up and thank God you get the opportunity to play the game of football, and I couldn't be happier to be here with my teammates enjoying this."
Dixon, Mississippi State University's all-time leader in rushing, will living out a fantasy he choreographed in the backyard in Terry on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens just 170 miles south in New Orleans.
Dixon has 78 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns this season, including a touchdown run in the NFC divisional game against the Green Bay Packers and a 4-yard run on a third-and-short situation in the NFC championship game last week against the Atlanta Falcons. The score helped the 49ers rally for a 28-24 victory.
"I'm one of the guys on this team that always has the energy and the passion for the game of football," Dixon said. "I did that at Mississippi State, and I have no problem doing that here with the 49ers. I love my teammates, and I think they love me, too, because they know whatever I'm feeling from day to day isn't a show or isn't fake."
Since lifting up kicker David Akers following a 63-yard field goal in the 2012 season opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., to doing a pregame dance before the opening kickoff, Dixon has developed into the emotional leader for the 49ers in just his third professional season. His energy and emotion at the facility every day is something he believes will keep him in professional football.
"My emotion and passion is real and my effort is real and they respect that out of me," Dixon said. "I have that emotion in my role as goal-line runner, special teams man on kickoffs and punts, whatever my team needs for me to do. I believe and I've told a lot of them that even at the pros if we believe in what we're doing more than the opponent, we'll win and we'll have the advantage. It's still not always about talent, even in the NFL. I love being in San Francisco because this is the organization that thought I could come in and make a difference. I want to win this Super Bowl as a 49er because it allows me the opportunity to give back to the fans here that love me and my coaches that love me and thought enough of me to draft me after all those other dudes."
The 2010 draft experience is still a motivator. Dixon, 25, was passed over by 172 players before the 49ers selected him in the sixth round. Dixon was surprised he went that late, especially considering he rushed for 3,994 yards in four years at MSU. The six rounds and three days of draft coverage Dixon had to wait through before starting his professional football experience is the last negative about the game he loves he has allowed to fester in his mind.
"It's about the work I had to put into my game in high school, college, and now that the pros," Dixon said. "It's things like this that make sitting around waiting all those rounds in the draft knowing those dudes getting picked before you weren't better than me. I knew they weren't better than me. It's given me the motivation and the anger to go prove people wrong at this level that I can not only stay in pro football, but be a member of this championship team."
The Dixon wearing No. 24 in San Francisco is the same emotional player fans saw in Starkville. He also is the same fun-loving teammate who knows he'll get hundreds of ticket requests from friends and family just two and a half hours north of New Orleans in Terry.
"It hasn't been decided how many tickets we get apiece or anything like that, but I do know this, it'll be costly," Dixon said with his classic laugh.
Dixon joked with The Dispatch he has gotten 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, a strict disciplinarian but with a wild side to his personality, to do MSU's Dog Pound Rock dance. MSU players do the dance before the opening kickoff of every game. Harbaugh saw Dixon doing the dance while lining up for an opening kickoff. Harbaugh asked the inevitable question, and Dixon has promised to do the dance if he scores against Baltimore.
"He and my teammates one day were like, 'What are you doing?', so after I explained it. I was even in charge one day this year in practice to teach everybody on the team, even coach Harbaugh, how to do the Dawg Pound Rock, so yeah, I've even gotten coach Harbaugh to do it a couple of times this year," Dixon said. "It's a special thing for me to do and to know everybody in Mississippi is doing it in front of their TVs with me. It's my way to bring a little of that Mississippi State pride into pro ball. I love doing that."