IRVING, Texas - To say life has come full circle would be an understatement for Ahmad Dixon.
One of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks and the only safety taken in the draft by the team, Dixon admits he "blacked out" when he finally heard his named called last Saturday with the 248th overall pick – just a handful of picks before the end of the draft.
Tears of joy and accomplishment overwhelmed the safety, even to the point that he couldn't even conduct a conversation with both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett immediately following the selection.
When he entered the Cowboys' locker room this week for the first time, reality sat in, which once again nearly led to a few tears for Dixon, who wore No. 6 at Baylor but will have No. 36 with Dallas.
"It's so coincidental because the first Pee Wee number I had was 36," Dixon said, recalling his pre-teen days in Waco, Texas. "It feels great to have that number on my back. I almost started crying when I got in the locker room and saw that number in there."
Back then, Dixon said he initially played left tackle of all places for the Southern Panthers squad before moving to running back. But since becoming a star at Waco Midway, Dixon has been nothing but a defensive standout, although he didn't always line up at the traditional safety spot at Baylor.
Dixon said he believes his experience of playing a rover, jack-linebacker position in his first three years at Baylor will help with the adjustment to the NFL.
"I think it will help a lot," said Dixon, a first-team All-Big 12 pick last season. "When you get on the back end, everything happens a lot slower. Once you get in the box, things happen a lot faster than on the back end. Normally you're at about 12 yards when you're at the safety position, but when you line up at the nickel back or linebacker spot, you're about five to seven yards and things happen a lot faster. You have to deal with linemen and crazy stuff in there. I have a lot of experience there. It'll help me out a lot and with special teams as well."
Other than established strong safety Barry Church, Dixon will join a safety group filled with question marks. J.J. Wilcox will likely get the chance to win the free safety spot, considering he was a third-round pick last year and showed flashes of promise throughout his rookie season. Jeff Heath had some rough moments but managed to finish sixth in tackles last year with 60. Jakar Hamilton needs more reps and Matt Johnson needs to show he can get healthy and stay healthy.
So Dixon will have an uphill climb, but it's certainly not an impossible one.
But the rookie seems up for the challenge. Even before participating in a single NFL practice, Dixon already has an interesting story. Growing up in the part of Waco that Dixon says isn't considered the best neighborhood in town, Dixon said he's had to work harder than his peers to get noticed.
"Growing up as a kid, my life was kind of different. I didn't have the type of life that everybody else had growing up," Dixon said. "My parents weren't the parents that made sure that I had every Jordan (shoe) that came out. I didn't have all of the name-brand clothes. I didn't just have the easy way out of it. We lived in all kinds of different houses. We lived in hotels. We lived with my grandmother. When people tried to judge me based on what I've done and not what I've been through in life, it's crazy."
While Dixon is all about family, he wasn't exactly on board like them when it came to following the Cowboys. Yes, he watched them because it was the "hometown team," but he also thought he'd be a Baltimore Raven and follow in the footsteps of Ed Reed.
His family had other ideas.
"Everybody in my family has always told me, 'you're going to the Cowboys. You're going to the Cowboys.'" Dixon recalled. "And I would always say, 'No. I want to get out of Texas. I want to see something different.' For this to happen, I just don't really know how to express it but shed tears because it's a blessing." [embedded_ad]
Dixon even tried to get out of the state to play college football but that didn't pan out either. After committing to Baylor initially, he switched his commitment to Tennessee. But after Lane Kiffin left the program, Dixon decided to de-commit from the Vols and not play for head coach Derek Dooley, who ironically is on the Cowboys' staff now as the receivers coach.
Dixon went back to Baylor where he was involved with the only recruiting class in school history to make four straight bowl games.
He comes to the Cowboys with some familiar faces. Friday's rookie minicamp should include four Baylor players, along with running back Glasco Martin and tight end Jordan Najvar, who were both signed as rookie free agents. And linebacker Eddie Lackey will be on the field on a tryout basis.
If that's not enough, second-year receiver Terrance Williams is already established in the locker room.
"I can't wait to play with Terrance," Dixon said. "He's a great player and he's only going to get better. It's great to have (college teammates) here with me, but it wouldn't matter if they weren't. I'm just ready to come in and start playing. I'll do whatever they ask me to do."
Just like No. 36 did about a dozen years ago on the Pee Wee level.