Troup receiver ready to make plays

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, July 31, 2019


Daily News

He’s back at 100 percent and ready to roll.

On the heels of a breakout sophomore campaign, Troup High’s Mark-Anthony Dixon came into his junior season in 2018 with high hopes.

Unfortunately for Dixon, things hit a stumbling block when he suffered a shoulder injury during a mid-season game against Chapel Hill.

“We were over here on the sideline, and (a tackler) kind of pulled my helmet forward,” said Dixon, recalling that fateful play from the game on Sept. 21. “We were falling back, and he threw me over, and I ended up landing on my shoulder.”

Dixon felt it was a serious injury, and he was right.

Dixon suffered a torn labrum that he knew was going to sideline him for a while.

Dixon was out for a month, and he returned to the team for the final three games of the regular season, as well as the memorable run to the state semifinals.

Dixon made a handful of plays, but he wasn’t a key part of the offense after his return, and he had surgery in January to repair his damaged shoulder.

“He played hurt all the way down the stretch and in the playoffs,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said. “That was tough for him, and it was tough on us, because he’s such a big weapon for us. He’s a legit 4.4 guy that can take the top off defenses.”

The good news for Dixon is that he has one more season of high-school  football remaining, and he will be a massively important piece of the offensive puzzle.

Troup’s three leading receivers from a year ago are gone.

Jamari Thrash and Joko Willis graduated, and Ja’Rell Smith transferred to Harris County.

The receiver with the most experience, and the greatest ability to stretch the field since he’s an elite sprinter, is Dixon. Dixon will lead an inexperienced receiving corps, and he’s embracing that challenge.

“I’m looking forward to this season for sure,” Dixon said. “All of the receivers, we’ve all developed, we’ve all gotten better. I can’t wait to see what we can do.”

What Dixon does on the field will be critical, and Glisson said the leadership he provides is important as well.

“He’s been more vocal this year than he has in the past,” Glisson said. “By nature he’s not a vocal individual. So he’s been leading by example a lot.”

After transferring from Columbus High, Dixon had a smashing debut season at Troup in 2017.

For a team that went 9-3 and reached the second round of the state playoffs, Dixon had 22 catches for 577 yards, an eye-popping average of 26 yards per reception.

Dixon’s coming-out moment came in the second game of the 2017 season when he got behind his defender for a 95-yard touchdown catch from Montez Crowe against Kendrick.

Dixon had at least one catch in every game that season, and he also returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

When the 2018 season rolled around, Dixon continued to make plays with 10 catches in the first four games.

In a 37-20 win over Callaway, Dixon had touchdown catches of seven and 26 yards.

The following week Dixon had a pair of catches against Chapel Hill before going down with the injury, and he only had four receptions the rest of the season.

While Dixon’s impact as a receiver wasn’t significant after his return, he played an important role as the punter.

In a state quarterfinal win over Cairo, Dixon had a key punt late in the game that helped Troup win 20-17.

“We were lining up to punt with two minutes left, and I’m thinking oh Lord, our whole season’s coming down to the punt team,” Glisson said. “And he did a great job.”

For many teams, losing a player of Dixon’s ability would have been a painful blow.

Fortunately for the Tigers, they had tremendous wide-receiver depth last season, and they were able to overcome Dixon’s loss.

Thrash, Willis and Smith combined for 111 catches and 26 touchdowns.

It’ll be up to a new group of receivers, and one returnee in Dixon, to fill that void.

“It’s the next guy up,” Dixon said. “If you’re the next guy up, you’ve got to compete, and you’ve got to perform to the highest level that you can.”

One of those new receivers, Zy Varner, showed what he’s capable of with a pair of touchdown catches in the spring game against Newnan.

Jace Godwin and Devon Hill, standouts on the defensive side of the ball, could also get some time at wide receiver.

“We all know each other, and we all try to give each other tips on what we should do,” Dixon said. “We always try to make each other better.”

It helps that Troup has one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Kobe Hudson, who had a monster junior season after making the transition from wide receiver.

Hudson threw for 3,386 yards with 32 touchdowns, and he ran for 1,410 yards with 18 touchdowns.

Hudson has a knack for keeping plays alive, and Dixon knows that as long as his quarterback is still on his feet, a play is never over.

“We even have a drill for it,” Dixon said. “It’s find the ball, find the open space, and he’ll get it there.”

The 2018 season was the best one in the history of the Troup program.

Troup went 12-2 and reached the Class AAAA semifinals before losing to eventual state-champion Blessed Trinity.

While the Tigers have some key players to replace from that team, expectations are high, and Dixon said the players are giving it their all.

“We got far (last season), but there’s still something we haven’t achieved yet,” Dixon said. “We have to work even harder to get there.”

When football season ends, Dixon will turn his attention to track and field.

Dixon, while rehabbing following shoulder surgery, didn’t participate in track last spring.

Dixon was one of the state’s top sprinters, and he finished third in the 100-meter dash at the state finals in 2018.

“Track, I love it,” Dixon said. “That’s my thing. I was really mad that I missed last season, but I just have to come back harder.”

Dixon hopes to participate in a sport in college, and he’s keeping his options open.

It helps that Dixon is a straight-A student with a high ACT score.

“There have been a couple of colleges that are looking at me,” Dixon said. “One is looking at me for football and track. That’s definitely one to consider.”

First things first.

Dixon has one final go-around as a Troup Tiger, and Glisson is hoping to get the most out of him.

“We just have to get him on the field, and keep him on the field as much as possible,” Glisson said.