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August 23, 2011
All football players want to play. Nothing stings worse than practicing all week and then learning that it just wasn't quite enough to get on the field.
Gerald Dixon Jr. is frustrated, but not so much that he'll take a martyr's role and angrily pronounce why he should be playing. He understands that it will take time for him to grow into the role, and is spending his time working toward that, instead of complaining about how long it will take.
"Coach (Brad) Lawing says I'm going to be redshirting, and I'm going to be patient and wait for my turn," Dixon Jr. said on Monday. "We've got a lot of defensive tackles. I just look up to those guys."
Soon, Lawing said, the others will be looking up to Dixon Jr. and his brother, also named Gerald Dixon. Just not right away.
"They're just not ready yet," Lawing said. "They're going to be good players. I coached their dad in the early '90s. He got here and he was kind of rough around the edges. They're really going to be good, but for some guys, their time comes at a different time."
As a package deal from Rock Hill, the Dixons represent the true trifecta. Dixon Jr., known as "Junior" by Lawing, hails from Northwestern High School while his brother - "G" - is from South Pointe. Dad Gerald Dixon was a Gamecock from 1990-91, during Lawing's first stint with the team, and he's an assistant coach at the city's third and oldest high school, Rock Hill High.
Both sons wanted to carry on dad's name at USC and did, making their commitment announcement together. Each said then that of course they wanted to play right away, but understood they were playing behind several veteran players, most notably fifth-year senior Travian Robertson in front of Dixon Jr. and players like Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram in front of Dixon.
They reported to USC for the second summer session and were already beginning to get used to the weight-training and conditioning before the real practices began. Dixon Jr. began competing right away but Dixon was slowed by a stress fracture in his leg, an injury that has kept him from practicing at all.
That injury, plus the expected emergence of Dixon's high-school teammate Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end, pretty much cemented Dixon's role as a redshirt freshman in 2011. While Dixon Jr. has been practicing and doing well, he also knew that Robertson, Byron Jerideau, Aldrick Fordham and Kelcy Quarles being at USC would probably keep him limited.
A bit of a blow to the ego, but even players from tremendously successful high-school programs sometimes have to sit for a while in the rough-and-tumble SEC. Besides, that just means another year of playing alongside his best friend - his brother.
"He's doing pretty good," Dixon Jr. said of Dixon. "I think (the leg's) still kind of bothering him. He's ready to get back on the field. We're just getting ourselves together, going over the plays and trying to take it easy, trying to get ready for the game."
Dixon Jr. has learned as much as he can from the players in front of him and knows that while it's not likely he'll be called, especially after the season's fourth game, he still has to practice as if he was starting. "Travian goes over the playbook with me and just tells me to be patient," he said. "I'm still staying in the playbook. Hopefully nothing happens, but something may happen and coach may have to come get me. Make sure I'm prepared and ready."
And then it's time to get ready for the other part of living with brother - making sure he knows that in college, high-school loyalties still play a certain part.
Northwestern travels to South Pointe on Friday to begin the season. Dixon Jr. didn't hesitate to name the winner.
"Northwestern," he said.
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