Six Catches for 108 Yards and Two Touchdowns
That's the stat line Buckeye fans expected to see regularly after Johnnie Dixon announced his commitment to Ohio State.
The speedster from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, the nation's No. 9 receiver and the No. 76-rated player nationally. He was the highest rated receiver in Ohio State's 2014 class which featured Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Noah Brown.
Nearly everyone was expecting huge things from the speedster, then came the knee problems.
Dixon's true freshman season was cut short with knee issues and those knee issues would plague him nearly chronically for the next three years, sidelining him during games and practices.
"Yeah honestly, I kinda had that feeling at the Fiesta Bowl – I felt like it might be over from here.– Johnnie Dixon
“He's a very highly recruited guy out of Dwyer High School, a very talented guy, nice person,” Urban Meyer said of Dixon last spring. “But he got here, had this tendonitis and issues in his knees, and he would go two practices and have to miss two.”
In his three-year Ohio State career, Dixon has just 12 touches for 80 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came on a five-yard run during the team's blowout win over Rutgers in 2016. Then, a few games later, Dixon re-injured himself against Michigan State, sidelining him for the rest of the season and instilling doubts that he'd ever be fully healthy again.
"Yeah honestly, I kinda had that feeling at the Fiesta Bowl," Dixon said. "I felt like it might be over from here. But I got back in town and a couple weeks went by and I was just thinking about it and I was like 'why not give it another shot?'"
That shot paid off. Dixon had his best, healthiest spring since his arrival in Columbus, culminating in his performance in Ohio State's 2017 when he posted that stat line we mentioned earlier – six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was definitely pushing through," Dixon said of his emergence. "I had to be a little tough in my mind. Sometimes I got down on myself because I thought it was my fault, but it was nothing I really could control."
Dixon continued his rise since spring, and is still healthy.
"It's the best feeling I've had in a while," Dixon said. "I haven't been healthy really since early high school years. Being healthy is big, I enjoy it. It's fun being out there every day."
He's turned heads throughout the team's preseason camp and just a few short weeks from the start of the 2017 season, he seems to be on his way to a starting – or at least important – role this upcoming season.
"One thing about this program is if you go slow, you're not going to be in there."– Johnnie Dixon
Meyer said they make a big deal about calling families to tell them to make travel plans to see their son play this season, and that call is imminent for Dixon's family.
"He's within probably a week of getting that phone call," Meyer said. "It's really cool to see."
Meyer called Dixon a "breath of fresh air" on BTN during Big Ten media days, and that's exactly what the Buckeyes need at the wide receiver position – a unit that struggled mightily in 2016.
Of course, there's always a chance the injury bug bites again, but that's the furthest thing from Dixon's mind as he's practicing – he's giving it all he has every day. There's no other choice.
"One thing about this program is if you go slow, you're not going to be in there," Dixon said. "When I go out there I don't really think about it. If it happens, it happens. That's not on my mind when I'm out there practicing."
For now though, Dixon is healthy. And he's shown Buckeye fans what he can do when he feels good – six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps 2017 is when that stat line finally becomes a regularity.