Terrance Dixon overcomes odds to find success at Georgia State

Georgia State receiver Terrance Dixon makes one of eight catches against Furman.
Georgia State receiver Terrance Dixon makes one of eight catches against Furman.

Credit: Todd Drexler (Georgia State University)

Credit: Todd Drexler (Georgia State University)

In three short years, Terrance Dixon has seen a substantial change in his status on the Georgia State football team.

Dixon barely was an afterthought when he joined the Panthers as a walk-on in 2017. Now the junior from Columbus is held in such high esteem because of his academics and football effort that coach Shawn Elliott bestowed upon him the honor of being the first Georgia State player to wear the No. 0 jersey.

Elliott subscribes to a “Win It, Wear It” philosophy regarding uniform numbers. Dixon, who had worn No. 27 since joining the program, petitioned to switch to No. 3. Elliott said he would consider Dixon’s request if he made straight A’s.

“Well, I made straight A’s and asked Coach about it, and he said, ‘How would feel about becoming the first player in Georgia State history to wear No. 0,’” Dixon said. “I didn’t have to think about. I immediately said yes.”

A day or so later, he received a text from his coach to confirm the change. Elliott was reserving the number – permitted by the NCAA for the first time this season – for the player with the best combination of performance, effort, academics and character, on and off the field.

Dixon had limited options coming out of Columbus High School, despite being named the city’s athlete of the year by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. The problem wasn’t his ability – he amassed 1,430 all-purpose yards as a senior -- it was his stature. There just weren’t that many college programs looking for a 5-foot-7 receiver.

“People definitely say that all the time,” Dixon said. “I know I can make plays and I know what I can do on the field. I don’t worry about my size. At the end of the day, if you can make the play, you can make the play.”

He hooked on with Georgia State thanks to a connection through a friend’s father, someone who knew one of the coaches. After going through a redshirt season in 2017, Dixon got the chance to play in 10 games in 2018 and responded with three catches – two of them against NC State.

Dixon’s big chance came in 2019. He was placed on scholarship – a moment celebrated on camera when he was doused with a bucket of ice water -- and made an immediate impact by catching eight passes against Furman. The most dramatic came on the last play of the first half, when Dixon pushed and strained and extended the ball into the end zone. That score changed the momentum and sparked the Panthers, who had trailed 20-3, to a 48-42 comeback win.

“I was thrilled about that touchdown,” Dixon said. “It shifted the momentum.”

The game was equally unforgettable in a bad way. Dixon tore the ACL in his left knee in the second half; he felt it pop while he was slowing near the sideline after catching a bubble screen. Suddenly his season was kaput, and Dixon acknowledged he went through some emotional trauma while dealing with the setback. He credited his faith, his family and friends for helping him get through the rough patch.

The rehab road has not been easy, but he is now comfortable on the field again. “I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said.

Now Dixon is eager for the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 19 at Center Parc Stadium. He is one of a talented group of receivers that should make the transition easier for whichever new quarterback wins the starting job.