Mississippi State fans must be prepared to make a difficult decision come Saturday afternoon. The beloved New Orleans Saints travel west to take on the San Francisco 49ers.
It just so happens that one of the most praised Bulldogs to those who bleed maroon, Anthony Dixon, plays for San Francisco, leaving the choice, who to cheer for?
The beloved former Bulldog will take the field with the 49ers in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. In doing so Dixon, who is in his second NFL season, will take the field in the postseason for the first time.
“Man, I’m excited. You know, coming up as a young’un this is what you dream of,” said Dixon, who has four career touchdowns in the NFL. “I watched all those games on NFL Saturday and NFL Sunday. I know me personally I always said, ‘man I’d love to be a part of that action. I’d like to see what that whole ride is about.’ To do this is really going to be a dream come true, you know.”
To many, the 49ers making the playoffs isn’t a surprise. What is a shock is the fact they completed the regular season with a 13–3 record and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Well, it is a shock to people outside the San Francisco locker room.
“We worked so hard, I think we’ve earned this. This is just hard work paying off,” said Dixon. “We knew from the jump that we had that underdog role. A lot of these guys in this locker room with their backgrounds, they been in that role for the longest. We believed in each other. We knew we had the talent in this room and we knew we had a chance even though everyone else was down on us.
“Our coaches came in and told us they were going to give us everything they had and they were going to put us in position and we believed them. We started building that chemistry and we gained confidence. We said, ‘forget what everybody else is talking about, we’ve got a chance and we are just going to keep it in this room.’"
The 49ers dropped the second game of the season in heartbreaking fashion with a 27-24 loss to the Cowboys, but they then reeled off eight-straight wins and locked up the Western Division.
“We fought hard and had some comeback victories,” said Dixon. “This has just been a great season. I don’t know if it is a surprise for a lot of the guys, it might be, but to tell you the truth, I think we all believed and we are where we are supposed to be.”
When Dixon was asked about the difference, he was quick to answer, coaches.
“(Jim Harbaugh) just brought more confidence. This staff is a confident staff. They’ve got some good swagger,” Dixon said. “They know what they are doing, they break it down to us, and they show us our advantages and just preach to us to do it the right way.
“I love Coach (Mike) Singletary and that other staff. I’m so appreciative to them for bringing me in. They did a good job with us also, but Coach Harbaugh and his staff they just came in with that confidence. They came in with an energy and that kind of stuff can be addictive.”
Dixon has spent his season waiting his turn as Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter have received the majority of the carries. Dixon readily admits it has been hard to watch but he has faith in his path.
“It is hard with me being the competitor that I am, it is hard. I know that God’s got something planned for me. My time will come,” he said.
During the season, Dixon carried the football 29 times for 87 yards and two scores, but has truly had an impact on special teams.
“All I try to do is play my role and when I’m done with my career, I want people to say that he was a guy that could do it all. He could go out there and play special teams or play running back, or he could go out there and do whatever the coaches asked of him,” Dixon said. “That’s my approach and when my carries come, you know I’m going to show them I can be a premier running back also. Right now, I’m going to be a premier special teamer and keep on working my way up.
“I feel like God’s got a plan for me as long as I stay working hard and giving him the praise. As long as I stay doing his work, I’m going to be alright.”
Don’t think just because Dixon’s enjoying his time in the NFL that he’s forgotten about where he came from.
“I feel like we are one big family, one big DAWG family,” Dixon said. “It gets me emotional at times watching them boys on TV. I’m definitely in front of the TV screaming and jumping and hollering, wishing the best for all of them. The years I was there, you know I love those guys. I learned from a lot of guys in front of me. They just showed me the way and we just took it and ran with it.”
Dixon and the 49ers will take the field on Saturday at Candlestick Park with a scheduled kickoff of 4:30 p.m. against the New Orleans Saints for the right to play in the NFC Championship Game.