By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
What is homecoming without a football game?
Ashten Dixon would agree.
“There wouldn’t be homecoming without a football game,” said Dixon, who was then reminded that Bluefield College did just that after not having football for 71 years.
“Well,” he added with a laugh, “not a great homecoming.”
Bluefield College (0-5) will host its second homecoming football game in two years on Saturday when Belhaven, Miss. (1-4) visits Mitchell Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
While Belhaven — which has to make an eight-hour plus trip to Bluefield — has just one win on the season, Dixon isn’t concerned with records going into his fourth collegiate start.
“The coaches are always telling us the scoreboard is a by-product so I am not worried about the scoreboard,” Dixon said. “I have just got to get out there and do what I know how to do and not be nervous because when I get nervous, that is when I mess up...
“I love the pressure, I don’t care if people talk down to me or people think ‘you stink, you are not that great’, it comes with the job, no matter what you do. When you are up, people love you, when you are down, people hate you, but it doesn’t really bother me at all, I still love the feeling.”
Coming to Bluefield was like coming home for Dixon, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound freshman, who was born in Athens but moved to Spotsylvania when he was 6, and started behind center the last three years at Spotsylvania High School.
“I had a good amount of success, I could have fixed a couple of things, threw a few too many picks my senior year, but my coaches pushed me,” Dixon said. “They knew I wanted to play college ball so they helped me out the best they could, they helped me out and here I am.
“It is something I have always wanted to do, I just got lucky enough to do it.”
Dixon, who had discussions with several schools, including the University of Virginia, Bridgewater and Randolph-Macon, chose Bluefield over McDaniel College in Maryland.
“D-3 cost too much money. Even though, my dad, they help me out with money and everything too so I was more leaning toward here and I love it here and it is right next to home,” Dixon said. “I was born and raised in Athens.”
Dixon has played in all five games for Bluefield, starting three of them, throwing for 386 yards and a touchdown in five games, and run for another 113 yards and two more scores.
That includes 63 yards rushing and a touchdown in last week’s 41-25 loss at Bethel for Bluefield head coach Ordell Walker. Dixon also threw for 130 yards.
“He ripped off a pretty big run that was a huge momentum swing and when he makes good decisions, we really can get rolling,” Walker said. “The second half we really got rolling and he was in a groove.
“That is exciting to see. The longer he plays the better he gets and so now it is just calm your nerves and get him off to a fast start.”
Bluefield started the season with Josh Erby behind center, with Dixon moving into the starting role in Week 2 at Pikeville, but he was injured and played little in the home opener with Kentucky Christian.
Still, Dixon has settled into the role of quarterback as a freshman playing college football.
“It is a great feeling,” said Dixon, who ran for 66 yards and threw for 124 in the loss to Pikeville. “I feel like I am very blessed, very lucky, because I have come a long ways, my parents have always pushed me so I am so lucky...
“I got a chance against Pikeville and it wasn’t anything against the other quarterbacks because all the other quarterbacks are working hard just as much as I am.”
How was Dixon able to stand out over three other capable signal callers?
“That I push myself, that I push myself on the little things and the bigger things will come with time,” Dixon said. “I am just trying to perfect those little things.”
So far Walker has liked what he has seen.
“He has a tremendous attitude, a tremendous character, just a great fit for our program,” Walker said. “He is very teachable and coachable, he is the kind of guy you want as a quarterback.”
Yet, Dixon knows his performance will determine if he maintains his role ahead of three other signal-callers who want his job.
“(The coaches) tell me that a lot, they tell me that constantly and I am aware of that too, but then again I am just trying to be my best is what they are saying,” said Dixon, who threw for 132 yards in a Week 4 loss at Cumberland. “I am trying to be great so I am pushing myself as well as they are pushing me and motivating me.”
A dual threat quarterback, Dixon ran the ball often at Spotsylvania, but is excited about the weapons he has at Bluefield,
“I ran a lot in high school, I wish we had some better receivers in high school,” Dixon said. “I feel like we are very talented here, we have come a good amount of ways, but not nearly where we should be.”
Among his supporting cast is Marion Harris — who has had 331 yards rushing in the last two games — and such big-play receivers as Rodrell Smith and Richard Johnson.
“We have got speed, we have got great hands, I love it, I love it here and everybody’s personality around here is great, they are all motivating me,” Dixon said. “When I mess up which seems to be coming more and more throughout the time because I am starting they pat me on the back the next time...
“It is a relief on me because once (Marion) starts running more and more you know they are going to key on him instead of me so that is going to give the other running backs and myself a chance to run and pass.”
Dixon was a rare Division 2 prep athlete who only played one way. His coaches refused to allow him to play defense.
“I really wanted to because I figured both ways would help me get more looks by more schools because I like being aggressive, but (my coach) looked at me and told me if you get hurt who we are going to go to so that sunk into my mind,” Dixon said. “It is a team thing so I did what the team needed me to do.”
Dixon, who is majoring in Sports Science, likes the small-town atmosphere in Bluefield, with few distractions to take attention away from the task at hand.
“Football and school, those are the two best things,” Dixon said. “The football team is really close together and the great thing is classes are small, it is easy for me to learn and I just love it because it is so small and it is so much easier to learn.”
Bluefield is still looking for its first win since reinstating the program last fall, having gone 0-16, but Dixon feels like the Rams are getting closer to success.
“You know as soon as we get a win, that is always in the back of your mind, but when you get a win you know you are going to be in the record books at that school,” Dixon said. “We are not worrying about breaking any records, I am just worried about doing what the coaches tell me to do.”
Walker has brought a different attitude to Bluefield from what the Rams had experienced in the past, and Dixon feels like that is making a difference on the field.
“I heard a bunch of negative things about the coaches last year, but it was their first year so they were going to have a bunch of bumps,” Dixon said. “With these coaches here, I feel like they are really leading us in the right way. I believe that wholeheartedly and I know they are striving for us to be great.
“We are not going to win until everybody knows that. Once everybody knows that and puts in all their work and worries about their one position, then we will start winning.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at firstname.lastname@example.org