Saints' Dixon hopes twin makes it, too

METAIRIE, La. – The only negative about undrafted rookie cornerback Brian Dixon cracking the New Orleans Saints roster this past weekend was that, for the first time, he did it by himself.

Brian’s twin brother Brandon was released by the New York Jets on the same day. Brandon, a sixth-round draft pick, later signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad.

“As good as I felt, I hated it for my twin,” said Brian, who had always played alongside his brother at every level until this year.

But if anyone knows about taking the long, hard road to success, it’s the Dixon twins, who bounced around together in college from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College to Joliet (Illinois) Community College to Northwest Missouri State.

So they’ll both use Brian’s success as inspiration.

“I told him to keep his head up. When one door closes, many more are gonna open. Just keep grinding and never be satisfied,” Brian said. “Even if you get drafted, you just have to keep working and keep that underdog mentality.”

That approach certainly worked for Dixon, who earned his way onto the Saints’ roster by impressing coaches this summer both on defense and -- more importantly -- on special teams. Dixon said the importance of special teams for someone in his position was drilled into his head repeatedly, by Saints coaches like Sean Payton and by NFL players like cousin Benny Sapp and lifelong friend Asante Samuel.

Dixon’s summer highlight was an interception in the third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. But he has a better chance of actually getting on the field on special teams, where he auditioned at gunner, among other roles.

“No. 1, he can run,” Payton said. “He has good ball skills. He stood out a little bit more in the kicking game. It was just one of those guys that each week you kind of paid attention to. He’s picked things up, obviously. He has a lot of work to do coming from the level of competition he played at, and yet we saw him do enough things both in the kicking game and at corner that were encouraging.”

Dixon’s college career was waylaid by academic issues. He said he knew that he had Division 1 talent and felt like he would have been drafted if he had played for a D-1 school. A high ankle sprain that limited Dixon last season also didn't help. But the Saints rookie said none of that matters much now.

“I’m happy where I’m at right now, and I’m seeing all the hard work pay off, so it really doesn’t matter. I really don’t care,” Dixon said. “I’m glad to be here. I’m glad I took the route I took, and I’m more humbled along the road.”