|ESPN.com: NFL Draft 2008||[Print without images]|
|Marcus Dixon Update|
Marcus Dixon went undrafted, but the Hampton defensive end signed as a free agent with the Cowboys on Sunday.
According to his agent, the deal is three years for $1.1 million. Six teams made offers, agent Joe Linta said.
"I'm happy, man," Dixon said. "This is the way it was meant to be. It's never been easy for me."
The Cowboys drafted only one defensive lineman, Middle Tennessee State's Erik Walden, but he projects as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
-- Greg Garber
But there is an asterisk next to Dixon's name. His character has been the subject of debate inside the NFL, because in addition to the statistics on his football résumé, there is this number: 15 months in prison for aggravated child molestation and statutory rape. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made character a priority. Current players have been disciplined strongly for running afoul of the law. Prospective players have seen their dreams deferred, even dashed with a single misstep -- throwing an ill-advised punch, smoking a joint, driving while drunk. Yet even with his record, Dixon is here, in this moment, with this opportunity. There's a reason for that. Several, in fact. And oddly enough, one prominent NFL general manager has told Dixon's agent, Joe Linta, that the experience might work in Dixon's favor. According to Linta, the GM said: "Joe, it makes me more want to drive him to see what kind of character he has, that he has been able to fight through this situation and lead a great life after all the bad that has happened." How, really, can this be? A charged trial
|A young Marcus Dixon, as a high school player at Pepperell High School in Lindale, Ga.|
Despite these achievements, there were issues. Two alleged incidents got him suspended from school for a total of 10 days. In March of his sophomore year, he exposed himself in a classroom, and a year later he inappropriately touched a 14-year-old girl after track practice. Neither episode was reported to the Floyd County police. Dixon called the first incident a "stupid prank," and said of the second: "All we did was made out." On Feb. 6, 2003, Dixon accepted a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University, historically the SEC's weakest football program and the strongest academic school. He could have gone to Georgia, but thought a Vanderbilt degree would carry him further. Four days later, after basketball practice, he had sex with Kristie Brown, a white 15-year-old virgin, in a classroom trailer behind Pepperell High School. "It was consensual sex," said Dixon, who was 18. "When we came in there, it was set up like we was going to have sex. She unbuckled her own pants. "At the end, the only thing she told me was like, 'My dad cannot find out about us having sex.' Because in my town, black people having sex with white girls is not something you do. She said, 'My dad cannot find out about us having sex, because he'll kill us both.'" Later, Brown would confirm this final statement in an interview on "Oprah," but they differed on a key point. Kristie said she was raped. Marcus was called to the principal's office two days later, placed in handcuffs and taken to the Floyd County jail. There it was: Three sexual incidents in three years. "That's all reason to believe he's a pedophile," Floyd County detective Gary Conway, who investigated the case, told ABC's "Nightline." "And if he got away with this, he would do another one." Prosecutors, led by assistant district attorney John McClellan, charged the football star with six counts: rape, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, sexual battery, statutory rape and aggravated child molestation. Marcus was represented by a public defender, who was working his first defense case. The trial dominated conversations in Rome through the first half of May 2003. "[Racism] just underlies the whole thing," Peri Jones said. "If that had been [son] Casey instead of Marcus, they would have said, 'OK, this is a good kid -- they wouldn't have done that.' But they didn't do that with Marcus. They just judged him by his color. "In my opinion, they charged Marcus with aggravated child molestation to make sure of a win. They wanted to make sure that they won the case because they knew he didn't rape her." After deliberating for 20 minutes, the jury of nine whites and three blacks acquitted Dixon of the four counts that alleged he had used force. The jury clearly believed that the sex was consensual, but because Brown was viewed as underage according to state law, jurors found Dixon guilty of statutory rape, a misdemeanor, and aggravated child molestation, a felony. In doing so, the jury had no idea the child molestation conviction carried a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 15 years. Juror Kathy Tippett cried when she found out. "My knees buckled, and I heard my mom cry," Dixon said. "I was like, 'My life's over with.'" A Bonfire of the Vanities?
|Dixon's case prompted supporters to hold a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 1, 2004, in Atlanta.|
|Ken Jones, right, wife, Peri and son Casey were overcome after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the black high school football player's conviction and 10-year prison sentence for having sex with a younger white classmate.|
|Dixon was a three-time team captain at Hampton and finished this past season with six sacks and a team-high 16 tackles for losses.|
Marcus Dixon, DE, Hampton
(6-foot-4, 292 pounds, 5.32 40)
Concerns: Character, Speed
Strengths: Has adequate lower body strength and can drive tight ends back when he plays with sound technique. While inconsistent in this area, has shown above-average upper body strength and flashes the ability to shed blocks. Works from snap until whistle, takes adequate angles to the ball and makes some plays in pursuit..
Last summer he had the first verse tattooed inside his left forearm: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Every time he has visited with NFL personnel, Dixon has been asked to repeat his complicated, convoluted story. He has it down to just several paragraphs, which he delivers in a soft monotone, beginning with, "I had sex with Kristie Brown, a Caucasian female " "I'm still trying to change people's perception of who I am," Dixon said. "They have character concerns because I was in prison. The scouts I talked to actually said it shouldn't be a problem." Still, he worries. "I do," he said. "I definitely do." Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com. In an April 24 story on ESPN.com about NFL draft prospect Marcus Dixon, a scouting breakdown provided by ESPN's Scouts Inc., erroneously reported that Dixon had been charged with criminal damage and disorderly conduct in August of 2007. Dixon was not involved in any such an incident and was never charged with those crimes.