Things got worse for him when he had to miss the entire 2005 season after breaking his leg in preseason practice. That enabled Rafael Little to emerge not only as UK's top rusher, but also as one of the nation's most versatile all-purpose players.
Apparently, Dixon has learned his lessons on and off the field. His grades have improved dramatically after being booted out of spring practice by Brooks. "I had time to apply myself more and dig into what I wanted to do. I realized I had a lot in front of me," Dixon said.
That translated into a rigorous offseason workout program for him. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds on UK's Pro Day in March even though he's added weight since last year.
"Tony has done as good a job rehabbing from a very serious injury as anybody I've been around," Brooks said. "He has grown up and taken responsibility for his actions. We wanted his weight at 195, but he's closer to 202 or 203. He was at 215 in January and is one guy who has a tendency to get a little belly on him. But he was running so well and so fast that he asked if we could up his weight. We put his playing weight at 200.
"He's in great shape now. It's almost like he's on a mission. He was starting ahead of the guy (Little) who was fifth in the nation in all-purpose yards last year. Tony knows he's a really good back and it's exciting to me he's worked as hard as he has to prove that."
Hamstring injury kept him out of scrimmage
Dixon missed UK's first major scrimmage last Saturday because of a hamstring injury. However, he's not about to complain about a minor injury. "I'm just glad to be back out here. It seems like it has been 10 years since I've played," Dixon said. "I've been so anxious just to get back. I'm so excited I can't describe it. I really worked hard in the offseason trying to get myself caught up with my teammates. I pushed myself in the weight room, classroom and conditioning.
"I learned some valuable lessons. My time off really set everything in front of me and let me see all that was out there. I realized what I needed to do on and off the field."
Brooks knows Kentucky needs to find ways to use Little and Dixon together next season. Since both have shown they can also catch the ball, that gives the Cats more options to get them on the field together.
"We are experimenting some with our offense to see what we can do with them," Brooks said. "I still want to see if Tony can do everything on the football field that he did in conditioning. I'm comfortable with either one of those guys having the ball in their hands because they both are real threats. It just makes sense to try and have both of them on the field at the same time."
That's fine with Dixon because he insists winning means more to him than individual numbers. "I want this to be a great year. I think with me and Rafael in the backfield, we can have a great offense," Dixon said. "We can give defenses a lot of trouble because we can do so many things. We're finally going to be healthy at the same time and that's going to not only help us both, but also really help the team."