The Utes Rally Behind Jaylen Dixon’s Success
SALT LAKE CITY- Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon has had a very unconventional path through his college career with the Utes. Dixon burst onto the scene in 2018 for Utah as the speedster they desperately needed at the position and followed it up with another productive year in 2019.
Then 2020 hit. Not a lot is known about what happened with Dixon that year other than he was struggling and felt like he needed to leave the program. After taking the year off and not finding another landing spot, Dixon reunited with Utah, but the journey back wasn’t easy and took time.
So far in 2022, Dixon has been looking like his old self out on the field burning defenses with his wheels, and he put an exclamation point on it against Oregon State last weekend being responsible for two of Utah’s touchdowns. Most notable though, is how Dixon’s coaches and teammates have reacted when asked about his recent successes.
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The Path Back For Dixon
Utah typically doesn’t let people back once they choose to leave- “all in, or in the way”, but Dixon was an exception according to head coach Kyle Whittingham at his Monday press conference.
“I needed to hear that he was all in,” Whittingham recalled of his conversation with Dixon two years prior. “That he had gotten himself together from a mental standpoint, and it wasn’t just by default that he had nothing else going. I needed to know that he sincerely, and genuinely wanted to be a part of this football team. Be a guy who could come in and be a great teammate, do whatever he’s asked to do and play his role to the upmost of his ability. That’s what he expressed to me.”
The Utes’ Excitement For Dixon
Last Saturday’s game against Oregon State was a career best for Dixon who posted his first ever multiple touchdown game as a Ute. The senior was also able to showcase both his ability as a pass catcher and rusher during his scores. Wide receiver coach Chad Bumphis was all smiles for Dixon during Monday’s media availability describing how much his receiver has evolved the past few years.
“It’s rewarding, it’s fun for me just because you are always learning,” Bumphis said. “Whether you are teaching them, whether you are learning from the players, learning from the coaches, but just to see everything he has gone through and watch him come in here and compete everyday, battle. JD is a completely different person than he was last year. I’ve known JD since I was a GA here. I saw him as a freshman, come in last year, and then this year he’s completely- I mean he’s more of a leader. In the meeting room his conversations are different, everything you want from a senior is what we are getting from him and we’re better because of it.”
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) October 1, 2022
Quarterback Cam Rising was also enthusiastic about having Dixon more involved in the offense, partially because he’s a good player, and partially because he’s a good teammate.
“I know it’s been a bumpy road for him,” Rising said. “Just to get to this point and to see him get his success- it’s made the whole team happy. I was just happy. I know when I called that play I told him to go score a touchdown with the reverse and he handled the rest. He’s a phenomenal player, phenomenal person, and I just love having him as a teammate.”
Fellow receiver Devaughn Vele echoed Rising’s excitement for Dixon. Vele says Dixon has been someone he’s looked up to for a long time, and to see him get back on track, making plays for the Utes was everything.
“I’ve always seen that dude working hard,” Vele said. “It was just a matter of time to get his moment to shine and I was the happiest dude out there seeing him score two times. It’s great to see that, and I know we are going to be giving him the rock more. He’s one of those guys we’ve got to depend on.”
Finding Joy Again
Last week, newly minted running back Ja’Quinden Jackson said he’d found his joy in football again. This week it’s Dixon saying he’s feeling like he’s back on track.
“It felt fun to go out there and work with the plays that coach got me in on,” Dixon said. “I feel like that’s been the biggest thing, not knowing how many chances I will get, but being able to do the most with those chances.”
“It may sound cliché, but I am just having fun with the game,” Dixon continued. “You come out here and see yourself make that kind of play and visualize it and make the play- it brings more confidence to you. It’s been great.”
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