After a Difficult Childhood, DT Dixon Aims to Make the Redskins
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Much of the focus during training camp has been on the Washington Redskins' new $100 million defensive tackle. Albert Haynesworth, both affable and talented, could put his name on a car dealership if he wanted. And homes? He could build them in several states.
In the same locker room, running the same drills, there is another defensive tackle who wakes up at the same time each day. Antonio Dixon takes a bus to the practice facility for a full day of practices and meetings. The same bus takes him back to the team hotel at night. There, Dixon, studies his playbook for two hours and calls his mother, often reminding her of his promise.
"When I make it, mama, you won't have nothing to worry about," he tells her.
Dixon, 24, and his 11-year-old brother Michael Antoine bicker with each other about which will be the first to buy Corenthia Dixon a house. "Oh, whichever one wants to, that's fine with me," Corenthia said with a laugh. "As long as I got my babies nearby."
Dixon, an undrafted rookie who's trying to make the Redskins' 53-man roster, says most of his teammates aren't aware of his background. And truth is, even if he told them, it's all pretty hard to believe.
Dixon has battled a severe stutter since he was child, and when the words struggle to come out, Dixon pats his knee and stamps his foot. "It seemed normal to me. It's what we did. I was used to it," he said. "But now that I'm older, I look back on it, and I can see that it was a rough life. But everybody has to go through stuff. There are people with much worse than me, so I just count my blessings."
Corenthia was 15 when she first became pregnant. She dropped out of school and was 17 when she had Antonio. A single mother, Corenthia was only 21 when her mother died from complications related to AIDS. Antonio was just 3 at the time. Without her mother, Corenthia could no longer afford to pay rent.
"I remember looking around, and the only thing in the world that I had was my kids," Corenthia said.
Between fast food chains and hotel housekeeping jobs, she struggled to earn a livable wage. Corenthia shuttled her young family back and forth between Atlanta and Miami. She jokes that her children spent more time in a Greyhound than any bus driver.
Antonio's father wasn't in the picture when he was younger. Frazier Hawkins was dealing crack, eventually nailed on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.
When Corenthia struggled with her own addictions, she temporarily lost custody of her children. When he was 11, Antonio spent nine months in foster care, which Corenthia says was the family's low point.
Even after regaining custody, Corenthia struggled to make ends meet. The family, which grew to include three sons and a daughter, bounced between houses and homeless shelters. Corenthia estimates that Antonio was enrolled in at least 15 different schools.