October 7, 2009 11:15:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Anthony Dixon is about to become Mississippi State''s all-time leading rusher.
The journey to that top spot has been bumpy.
In the offseason, the senior tailback was arrested for DUI. He fulfilled unspecified punishment from the team and served a one-game suspension in the season opener against Jackson State.
Now, Dixon has to bounce back from a game where he fumbled twice in a 42-31 loss to Georgia Tech.
Whether he has faced adversity on or off the field, Dixon has learned to face the problems and move on.
"It''s not that easy, and it''s kind of hard to just let it go when you are a player like me," Dixon said of how he handles negative things. "I expect so much out of myself and my teammates expect so much. You get the sense you let some people down."
MSU coach Dan Mullen has repeated Dixon has "done everything asked of him" since he has been the coach.
After his July arrest, Dixon apologized to his coaches, teammates, and fans for his poor decision.
"For Anthony, especially athletically, things have come very easy and he''s never had to face real consequences," Mullen said. "It was a situation where he was going to have to face consequences for his actions and really learn how his actions affected himself, his family, and his teammates. I think that sunk in and was a big maturing factor for him as a young man."
Dixon''s teammates have forgiven him and still respect him as a team leader.
MSU junior center J.C. Brignone said a veteran player can go through a trial that teaches the rest of the team a lesson.
As teenagers and young men, Brignone said players have to be aware of situations that could trip them up.
"Anthony Dixon may be (a standout) football player, but we''re still kids," Brignone said. "We''re going to make mistakes, and that''s one thing we''ve got to learn is that there are some things you can''t do. I know (Dixon) understands because he''s a good kid and understands what''s going on, but he had to pay for what he did and he''s had his punishment.
"You can''t hold Anthony Dixon down. He''s always got a smile on his face when it comes to football and that''s what we love about him."
Dixon hopes he can still be counted upon to help the younger Bulldogs when they make mistakes.
When it comes to giving a teammate criticism, Dixon wants to do it in a positive manner.
"I''m not a negative person or have never been a negative person," Dixon said. "When I get on someone about their mistakes, I never talk down to them. I just want to motivate them."
MSU freshman wide receiver Chad Bumphis values Dixon''s leadership.
Bumphis said Dixon usually is the one who pumps the team up in practice.
"Anthony is a great person and loves football," Bumphis said. "Any time and no matter what we''re doing, if we''re not in the mood, he''ll get you in the mood. I love being around him all the time."
Mullen credits Dixon for working through his punishment, and he said he has tried since the incident to be a better person and teammate.
"I love him," Mullen said. "He comes out and practices. He''s one of our hardest practice players with the energy he brings every day. He''s an integral part of the personality of this team."
Dixon still believes MSU (2-3) can have a winning season and reach a bowl game this season. If he can become the school''s all-time leading rusher in the process, that will be an added bonus.
"I want to do the job so we can get a win," Dixon said.
Going into the team''s game at 11:30 a.m. Saturday against Houston (ESPNU), Dixon has 3,030 rushing yards. He needs 183 more yards to break the mark held by Jerious Norwood, who had 3,212 yards from 2002-05. Dixon already owns the school marks in rushing attempts (739), rushing touchdowns (33), and scoring (222).
"When I first got here, I set out to be the best," Dixon said. "One of the things I said to myself was if I''m going to do this, I want to be the best at it. It feels good to know I''m moving toward that way. I''m going to enjoy it and every week, I plan to turn it up a little bit more."
MSU sophomore center D.J. Looney said Dixon is the "hardest worker I''ve ever seen."
"Here''s a guy who is a star and the face of our program, but he really goes so far in practice," Looney said. "It''s unbelievable the amount of effort he gives on a play. I know a lot of people might think differently, but Anthony is one of the hardest workers on the team. He''s our juice. When it''s time to go, he goes and goes extremely hard."
Dixon says he''s in the best shape of his college career, which is helping him put forth an extra effort.
Last season, Dixon''s playing weight was listed at 240 pounds. He gained weight after the season but returned this season at a more fit 235.
"I feel like I''ve got better stamina," Dixon said. "That helps me get two or three extra plays I didn''t have last year."
Dixon has rushed 86 times for 427 yards, an average of 106.8 yards per game, and three touchdowns. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in the past three games.
Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is impressed with what Dixon has done against Auburn, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Georgia Tech.
"He''s faced some stiff competition and he''s still putting up numbers," Sumlin said. "You don''t see a lot of players like that in the Big 12, in the Big 10, or in the Pac-10, except for maybe Jahvid Best (of the University of California-Berkeley)."
Mullen said it''s difficult at times to take Dixon out of a game because he can break a big run at any time.
With seniors Christian Ducre'' and Arnil Stallworth to work into the rotation, Mullen knows he can give Dixon a breather now and then.
"We expected a lot of things out of Anthony, and he probably gives us more than we''ve even asked," Mullen said. "He''s a guy who is going to come in and give you effort on every single play. When we can get him out, it pays off with how fresh he still was in the fourth quarter and running the football."
Dixon isn''t worried about rest. He will give the Bulldogs his all in the final seven regular-season games of his college career.
He knows he can''t continue to put MSU in bad situations because of his turnovers.
After not having fumbled since the last regular-season game of 2007, Dixon was disturbed about fumbling twice against Georgia Tech.
Dixon said he''s taking the steps in practice to hold the football higher and tighter.
It''s his desire to do well, which he says comes from deep within because he loves football and wants to give every ounce to his team.
"I can''t say it''s gone by fast, but I''ve enjoyed every minute and every hour I''ve been here," Dixon said. "I''ve put in my time, put in my work, and I want to go out with a bang."
n Brauchle''s status day to day: Junior kicker Sean Brauchle experienced a strain in his kicking leg in the Georgia Tech game and will be evaluated daily.
"With his mentality, it''s not going to take much (to get back)," Mullen said. "As soon as he gets the green light, he''ll be good to go."
Mullen is confident in the ability of junior Derek DePasquale.
"Derek is coming along and did a good job in the game," Mullen said. "There wasn''t a huge difference between the two to start with."
Mullen said the Bulldogs had a "good and damp" practice on a misty Tuesday afternoon that ended early due to fall break.
Despite recent struggles, Mullen said there were no major changes personnel-wise in the secondary for the Houston game.
"All of those guys are still there," Mullen said.