The records he has already broken and those on which he is approaching are unimaginable to Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon.
“I never envisioned myself doing this,” he said. “I knew wherever I went I’d work hard and just continue to thank God for every chance that I’d get.”
Perhaps he should have seen all that’s unfolded in his college coming, given Dixon’s been setting records through his football career.
At Strong High School in Strong, Ark., — population, 653 — he set a state single-game record with 348 yards.
Perhaps more impressively, he did it in the Class 2A title game, a contest in which he rushed for five touchdowns and passed for a sixth.
The state championship win capped a record-setting 3,153-yard career. Then, just 12 months later at Louisiana Tech, he concluded his freshman season with a nation’s best 27 rushing touchdowns.
That mark set the NCAA record for a freshman, which still stands. It’s one in a laundry list of historic milestones for college football’s active career rushing leader, but the biggie Dixon’s closing in on is the career touchdowns from scrimmage mark.
His most recent, a six-yard run on Saturday in a 43-14 rout of in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette, gives him 69 for his career.
He has seven opportunities in the regular season and, if all goes according to plan, a Conference USA Championship Game and bowl game, to break Montee Ball’s record of 83.
“[The record]’s in reach, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get it,” he said.
Wait — we?
Yes, Dixon considers the record a team honor; a testament to the performance of those around him. He specifically singled out the Bulldogs' offensive line.
“The offensive line is doing a great job up front with the blocking scheme,” he said.
Playing behind that offensive line, Dixon has already matched one NCAA record Ball set. Week 4 marked his 11th career game with at least three touchdowns.
Dixon’s record-setting career, he says, is a byproduct of the “week-in and week-out” pursuit of team success. And indeed, the Bulldogs have succeeded commensurate with Dixon’s individual stardom. They won nine games in 2012 and '14, and have opened a 2015 campaign in which they’re expected to repeat as C-USA West Division champions at 3-2.
Dixon is averaging 116 rushing yards per game to pace the offense. With 15 receptions for 148 yards, he has also been a primary pass catcher for quarterback Jeff Driskel, the fourth different Tech starter in Dixon’s time as a Bulldog.
From Colby Cameron in 2012, Ryan Higgins in '13, Cody Sokol last season and Driskel now, the Louisiana Tech offense has gone through regular change in Dixon’s tenure. Louisiana Tech also switched from the air raid offense, employed by previous head coach Sonny Dykes in 2012, to a more traditional approach under current head coach Skip Holtz’s staff.
The change did not come without some hiccups.
Sandwiched between two campaigns of 28 touchdowns from scrimmage is five-touchdown sophomore season, his first in offensive coordinator Tony Petersen’s pro-style scheme. Were it not for the dip, Dixon would likely have already broken Ball’s record.
But Dixon says he’s grateful for the transition, pointing to new responsibilities as a blocker in pass protection and a new-found understanding of schemes he believes will prepare him for the NFL.
Earning a spot on a professional roster is just one individual goal Dixon is pursuing — though his ambition off the field takes precedent over his performance on it.
“Me and [running backs] Coach [Jabbar] Juluke just talked about being great men,” Dixon said. “Everyone talks about the great football player Kenneth, but no one talks about the great man I’m trying to be. I feel like coach Juluke’s helped me come a long way from preparing myself not just on the football field, but in life.”
Part of Dixon’s effort to be a great man is leading Bulldog teammates in regular Bible study. He also says he’s striving to be a role model to his daughter.
Dixon became a father earlier this year, and now has a six-month-old superfan who, he said, just began saying “dada” in the past week.
She is at Joe Aillet Stadium for every Louisiana Tech home game, and could well be part of an audience that sees her father make college football history.
Dixon’s successes are of no surprise to Dykes, now at Cal.
“He’s a great kid, first of all,” Dykes said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Dykes signed Dixon at Louisiana Tech from Strong in 2012. Recounting the running back’s recruitment, Dykes still sounds pleasantly surprised he mined the 3-star gem from The Natural State.
“He’s one of those kids [who], if he’d been in the [Dallas-Fort Worth] metroplex, would have been probably [ranked] one of the top 100 [recruits] in the country,” Dykes said. “We just felt like he was that good of a player. He played quarterback, basically carried the ball every play, and was the best defensive player on the field.”
Power-conference program recruiters can take solace in missing on Dixon. His recruitment primarily consisted of nearby Group of 5 and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs.
“I had a lot of offers, but some of the main people were Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech. I had [Central Arkansas],” he said. “Ole Miss and Arkansas came in on the last minute, but really wasn’t a big deal.”
Ole Miss’ late recruitment of Dixon makes sense, given the Rebels had just hired Hugh Freeze from Arkansas State days after Dixon’s eruption in the Arkansas 2A state championship game.
But Dixon honored the verbal commitment he made to Louisiana Tech in October 2011 all the way to national signing day 2012.
“I felt at home here,” he said. “Everybody’s like family. Everybody cares about each other, from the video staff all the way to the media [relations department]. I feel like me and [associate athletics communication director] Patrick [Walsh] are family.
“I just love it,” he added. “Glad I chose [Louisiana Tech]. I get emotional just talking about it.”
That connection Dixon feels to Louisiana Tech will be chronicled in the annals of college history when he leaves Ruston. Even if he falls short of Ball’s touchdowns from scrimmage record, the impact Dixon’s already made is indelible — unimaginable, even.