Sometimes a player does something that makes you shake your head and ask why. Case in point would be Oregon Ducks QB Dennis Dixon. He didn't get arrested, or commit a crime. Dixon decided to spend the summer before his senior season not working with his teammates in Eugene, but instead playing minor league baseball.
Dixon's decision was roundly questioned- this was a player who'd thrown 12 interceptions and 6 touchdowns over the last nine games of the 2006 season. Shouldn't a QB who ended last season on a four game losing streak be staying back, working on his game? Ducks coach Mike Belotti thought so:
"I think he'd be better served, in my situation, reading defenses rather than reading curveballs," Bellotti said.But taken in the 5th round of June's major league draft by the Atlanta Braves, Dixon played this summer for their rookie league team, the Gulf Coast Braves. His summer showed something, and it was that perhaps he should have stayed a one-sport player. Despite playing for the Braves' lowest level team, he just wasn't that good. In 74 at-bats he batted .176, with more strikeouts (22) than hits (13). He hit zero home runs, and had 7 RBI.
Every so often the player that does something that goes against culture gets it right, and prevails. The conventional wisdom was that Dixon had made a mistake - he should have spent his summer practicing football. Should he fail this season, critics warned, the blame would be traced to his baseball ambitions.
So far though, things have gone in reverse. He didn't succeed in his baseball season, but has excelled so far with the Ducks. Oregon is 4-0 this season, largely due to Dixon, whose 14 interceptions and 12 touchdowns from a year ago have been replaced by zero interceptions and 15 total touchdowns this year. So what happened? Did Dixon's poor performance as a baseball player scare him straight, forcing him to focus on a football career he'd once taken for granted? Did things simply click in his senior season? Or is it just the latest evolution of a two-sport star?
Dixon and the Ducks face off against Cal this week, with the winner will find themselves in the driver's seat for a Rose Bowl berth. There are many games ahead, and people may remind themselves of a similar 4-0 start for the Ducks last season, and their subsequent downfall. But at least for now, Dixon can point to his season and say "told you so!"