LINCOLN — Breon Dixon can’t breathe.
He’s cornered by reporters on the second floor of the Hawks Championship Center, gasping for air.
“We’re looking way better I’d say as a team, as an offense …” out of breath, he trails off and puts his hands on his knees.
“We just had to run, my bad,” Dixon says with a smile.
He needs a chair or a drink of water, maybe five minutes to cool off. Instead he continues. Now that Dixon is eligible to play, there’s no time to spare.
“I don’t want it to be one thing that they can’t say, ‘Oh, you know, he can’t do this,’ or, ‘He can’t do this,’ so every day if I go back in my film and I watch and see certain techniques I can get better at, I come out here and make it a focus today,” Dixon said. “It’s just little stuff that you pick up on. Maybe if you’re not eligible you’re just like, ‘Oh I’ve got time for that,’ or, ‘I’m gonna get that.’ So now it’s just an emphasis on everything.”
Dixon transferred to Nebraska from Mississippi in January. The former four-star linebacker from Atlanta played sparingly for the Rebels in 2017, racking up just five tackles in six appearances. After former coach Hugh Freeze resigned, Dixon looked into transferring to a Big Ten school, and whittled down his choices to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan.
He’d been recruited by Nebraska coach Scott Frost and the UCF staff out of high school in Atlanta. On his visit to Lincoln, Dixon saw Frost’s vision for Nebraska and was sold. Despite knowing next to nothing about Lincoln or the Huskers, he committed and moved north. He and six other Ole Miss players applied for immediate eligibility.
“You always got that question mark in the back of your head when you’re not eligible, or you just feel like you may just be out there to be out there,” Dixon said.
In May, outside linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt sent Dixon a text saying that he received a call from the NCAA, and Dixon could play right away. Since that text, Dixon’s motor has kicked into hyperdrive.
“I feel good. I’m out here just playing with more drive, more passion,” Dixon said. “I’m playing a little bigger role than then, of course, because I didn’t know if I was eligible.”
Dixon was brought in to be Nebraska’s version of Shaquem Griffin, the UCF All-America linebacker who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in April. In 2017, Griffin had 74 tackles, 16 for loss plus seven sacks. Dixon, at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, is a bit smaller that Griffin. He is the smallest of Nebraska’s 14 outside linebackers. Doesn’t matter where Dixon lands, he said. He just wants to play.
“I wanna bring speed, I wanna bring physicality, I wanna bring swag,” Dixon said. “At the end of the day, you go out there and you’re thinking, ‘He may beat my tail on this play, but the next play I’m gonna go out there and whoop his tail.’ So it’s like that kind of never-quit mentality. And that’s what I kinda have. I may not be the biggest or whatever, but anytime a tackle or tight end come and block me, I may lose a rep, but I’m gonna get up and go harder the next rep just to make sure.”
Dixon is a talker. He speaks in paragraphs and amid his monologues he hardly comes up for air. And he admits he’s the same way on the field. He wants to keep the energy up on defense, wants to get inside the offense’s head. He doesn’t seem to have an off switch and is trying to instill a certain sense of grit on the defense that it may have been lacking last year.
“I’m not sure what happened last season, I wasn’t around but from what I hear it was a lot of quit from guys no matter if its third quarter, fourth quarter, or what,” Dixon said. “So right now we’re just trying to teach the mentality of don’t give up; 14-0, 21-0, if we up 21-0, don’t give up. Keep putting your foot on their neck.”
Dixon is slowly being introduced to Nebraska. He likes that downtown Lincoln is so close to campus. It reminds him a little of Atlanta, as does being around fellow Atlanta-native Mohamed Barry. Those two watch film together, give each other tips from inside linebacker to outside ’backer, and vice versa. Dixon also enjoyed hearing from former Blackshirts Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom over the weekend. And though Dixon doesn’t know much about Nebraska in the 1990s, he’s beginning to see some similarities to what Peter and Wistrom are talking about, and what’s going on now in Lincoln.
“Those are guys that are on the same mentality that I have. They’re the type of guys that get after it, get after it, get after it. And that’s what they were trying to get into our team,” Dixon said.
The depth chart is still being pieced together. Classes haven’t started yet. It all can’t come soon enough.
“I’m always antsy. Looking real, real forward to Sept. 1,” Dixon said. “I’m just ready to see what the season holds. I’m just ready to get there.”