The reactions of those around Ahmad Dixon tell the story.
Then and now.
When the Baylor safety decided to stay in Waco, Texas, and suit up for his hometown team, his choice fell upon skeptical ears.
“Everyone was like, ‘You’re so much better than Baylor,’” said Dixon, who was the No. 15 player in the ESPN 150 for the Class of 2010 and picked BU over offers from Alabama, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma and others. “You had you're doubters who were like, ‘You should have went to Alabama, you should have went to USC,’ but I was telling myself, you guys don’t even know, you don’t have a clue what’s about to happen.”
The fact Baylor coach Art Briles didn’t bristle at the thought of going head to head with college football’s elite with the goal of landing Dixon spoke volumes to the Waco native. It would have been easy to brush off the hometown Bears and become yet another piece of a top-tier program like Alabama or Texas, but Briles’ focus and determination was on display.
“The seriousness of Coach Briles and his staff and how serious he was about turning this program around,” said Dixon when asked what won him over. “I knew he was someone of that’s transformed programs around and made them great programs. He made it very clear that what is happening today was going to happen.”
Four years after Dixon arrived at Baylor, the Bears sit at No. 5 in the BCS standings, remain unbeaten at 7-0 and are the clear favorite to win the Big 12.
“I felt like, why go to Alabama, why go to schools away from home and help those guys become the team Coach Briles is trying to start up here in my hometown, right in my backyard?” Dixon said. “Why not be a part of that and show everyone in the community you can stay home and be positive and productive?”
So the transformation had begun, but not necessarily just within the BU program. Yet again, the surroundings tell the tale.
“As a kid we always knew who Baylor was but you never went to a Baylor game, you never cared much about Baylor, there were very few Baylor fans,” Dixon said. “Most people were Texas fans, Texas A&M fans, Texas Tech fans. Seeing that, then seeing what it is now, people walking around with Baylor T-shirts, Baylor hoodies, supporting Baylor football.
“It almost brings tears to my eyes.”
There was a time when Dixon could go days without seeing Baylor gear at school. Now, around Waco and around campus, the fans’ fervor is on display.
“It’s like ‘Wow, this is what I’ve become, I’ve helped all of this happen,’” Dixon said. “To see it is an emotional thing for me because nobody saw it, unless you had on green and gold. We were the only guys who saw it coming. It’s like that fairy tale, Cinderella story.
“… You always visualize something but once you see it happen, you’re in awe. I’m seeing things I’ve never seen that Baylor’s brought to the community.”
Still, it isn’t exactly what Dixon had in mind when he signed on the dotted line in February 2010.
“I always envisioned, one day Baylor is going to beat UT, one day Baylor is going to beat Oklahoma but when you’re talking about BCS rankings? That wasn’t even something I thought about,” the senior said. “I was so caught up in being good enough to win the Big 12 that’s been our goal, now things are turning out this way and guys are talking about the ‘what ifs.’ It’s being talked about but it’s still crazy. It’s like ‘Wow, this is us.’”
His phone is constantly buzzing with messages from friends and family about the Bears and he rarely turns on the TV without seeing his team dominating opponents on highlight shows. If a few things shake out just right, the Bears could find themselves in the BCS title game and if they finish the season unbeaten, Dixon will find himself getting sized for a Big 12 title ring after the season.
“We are the talk of the town, the talk of college football,” Dixon said. “It feels great to be a part of it.”
And with the Bears firmly part of the BCS discussion, not many out there can now say they’re better than Baylor.