The Washington Redskins organization has been touched deeply by the head injury suffered by the son of wide receivers coach Stan Hixon in a college football game last weekend, officials said yesterday, particularly because several came to know the Tennessee Tech wide receiver this summer while he worked as an intern at Redskins Park.
Drew Hixon, a senior, has been in a coma at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa since he was injured in a helmet-to-helmet collision during Tennessee Tech's 21-7 loss to South Florida last Saturday.
His father, mother and several other family members are in Florida with him, and the Redskins' receivers coach will miss his second straight game Sunday when the Redskins play the New York Giants.
Drew Hixon, 22, spent the summer as an intern in the Redskins' personnel department and left a lasting impression.
"He wanted to learn about football personnel; that's what he wants to get into," said Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice president of football operations. "He's an ambitious guy, a bright guy, a hard-working guy with a bunch of enthusiasm. He just wanted to learn."
Cerrato was a college teammate and roommate of Stan Hixon at Iowa State, and Hixon left his associate head coach position at Louisiana State University to join Washington's coaching staff this season.
Hixon said at a news conference in Tampa on Thursday that while his son had not regained consciousness, he had made some movements. He said his family was optimistic that he would recover and eventually graduate from college. Family members are close by at all times, reading and talking to Drew in an attempt to stimulate him.
Cerrato has been speaking with Stan Hixon twice a day to get progress reports. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, who several times this week urged others to keep the Hixon family in their prayers, sent one of the team's chaplains to Florida to help.
"Everybody is doing as well as can be expected," Cerrato said.
Drew Hixon, who played previously for his father at LSU, was at Redskins Park seven days a week during the summer, working closely with Cerrato and the Redskins scouts. He would often dine and work out with employees from the personnel department.
"He's a quiet guy, like his dad," Cerrato said. "We had a dinner for him and we had all the scouts in during training camp before [Hixon] left and we made him sing his fight song. He sang the LSU one."
Pro scout Louis Riddick became close with the younger Hixon during his time at Ashburn. The Redskins had a college scout at Hixon's game Saturday, Riddick said, and news of the injury quickly spread throughout the organization.
"I spent some time with him here and away from the office," Riddick said, "and he's a very jovial kid. He loves to laugh, he loves to kid around and he loves to be a guy and hang around and talk about football. He's not boisterous at all; he's a very humble, hard-working kid. I ran with him a few times outside and lifted [weights] downstairs with him and he's a really good kid. It is crushing to think about what he's going through. That kid's got a smile that would light up a room and it was crushing to hear that this happened."
While Hixon dreamed of playing in the NFL he was also preparing for career in football if he could not make it. He spent much time watching film with the scouts, organizing workouts, tracking the waiver wire and maintaining boards outlining the personnel of every NFL team, Riddick said.
"All we can do is pray for him now," Riddick said, "and hope he's able to pull through and not have too much long-lasting damage. From what everybody can gather it's serious what he's going through. We're all praying for the best and letting the doctors do whatever they can for him."