Throughout your life, you meet special people.
You may meet someone who’s one-of-a-kind — iconic, in a way.
You might meet someone legendary — a person who’s left a legacy that will live on for generations.
You may even meet someone historic — a special person who has accomplished something only few have.
And if you are lucky enough to meet someone who can be described as all of the above?
Well then, you must have known Jim Dixon.
And luckily enough, a whole lot of people did.
For 50 years, Dixon touched the lives of thousands in the community of Sulphur, the state of Oklahoma and even around the country.
The youngster from Marlow who was “tougher than a bus station steak” showed up with Carl Melson in the early 1970s and unpacked for the rest of
Dixon not only quickly became a Bulldog as a ripe, 25-year old head coach — he defined what it meant to be a Bulldog.
He quickly built a culture that churned out success, on and off the field, with a simple recipe.
Live in the moment.
I’m sure the fellow former players can hear the phrases in their head to this day.
“Let’s just get a little bit better each day.”
“Don’t ever, ever, ever give up.”
“Play every play like it’s your last.”
A program that is built on those truths is bound for success, sure.
Those principles win you a lot of football games — almost 350, now that we speak of it.
But Dixon’s master plan that none of us figure out until we are long gone and in the real world is just as simple.
He was preparing us for life.
Preparing us to show up to work every day.
Preparing us to instill the same principles and discipline in our own kids.
Preparing us to square up adversity, get hit in the mouth and get right back up.
He certainly did that, as the list of former players spans across any avenue of life.
Teachers, fellow coaches, preachers, judges, attorneys, businessmen, corporate leaders, doctors, police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, military servicemen, electricians, contractors, home builders, insurance agents and so many more.
Almost all of us would agree that even to this day, we still uphold the values we learned under coach and live by them daily.
However, as quick as we are to give him credit, he was just as fast to dish it back.
He wasn’t shy to tell anyone who’d listen how blessed he’d been throughout the years. He had “the best kids, coaches, colleagues and community, hands down.”
Some people are shocked to read or hear that he’d been at Sulphur for five decades.
But not those who knew Coach.
He was as loyal as they come, often giving people second, third, fourth and fifth chances.
He never forgot a former player, often recalling the years they played and the results of those seasons.
He went to bat for Sulphur on a statewide level, representing the school and community on numerous boards and in executive leadership positions to advance and improve opportunities for his students.
Coach Dixon was even more loyal to his players and coaches when tough times hit.
He would take the blame for a loss, even if a player had fumbled or a coach may have felt the burden of costing Sulphur the game.
It sounded something like “if anyone asks, that decision to go for it was a bad play call by me. If anyone says anything, you tell them to come talk to me.”
He didn’t care about getting the credit.
But without a doubt, he deserved it.
Part of that is because he practiced what he preached.
No one, and I mean no one, worked harder than Jim Dixon.
The countless hours of film study.
Dedicating time daily to deliberately plan each practice, down to the minute and with extensive detail.
It was his craft and it was also his passion.
That passion helped create what we know as Sulphur football today.
Where going to the playoffs was expected.
Where winning was something we just did.
Where the town stopped what it was doing on Friday night, because the Dogs were playing.
No matter home or away, you could expect a crowd when Jim Dixon and the Bulldogs rolled into town.
He united this community in a way only he could.
He built something people wanted to be a part of.
He created something that stretched beyond football.
Coach Dixon helped create what the town of Sulphur is today.
And that’s because of the person that he was.
I grew up dreaming of playing for Coach Dixon.
As a kid in Sulphur, you were ready and willing to give anything to be a part of the tradition he’d built.
From wearing a mesh, red jersey with white numbers on the playground, to playing in 34 games under Coach during high school, my story is so similar to hundreds.
An unforgettable experience that we appreciate more with each passing year.
But for the last 10 years, my story took a different turn.
I was fortunate enough to remain close with Coach Dixon, bugging him about that week’s game for the newspaper.
I’d call and get the usual “I was proud of our kids” and “they played extremely hard” and “we need to be ready to play this week.”
But because it was Coach Dixon, I’d also get “how’s your little one doing?” or “everything been going ok with you boy?”
It’s a representation of how he is with everyone who played for him.
He cared about the football player, sure. But those days come to an end for us all.
He never stopped caring about the person.
And now that he’s gone, you can’t help but wish you’d have cherished those moments a little more.
I will miss those calls on a Monday night, when coach would say “hold on now, let me grab my sheet. I’ve got it all written down right here” only to recite an insane amount of information about that week’s opponent.
Or how it was tradition for me to follow his “hello” with “what are you up to coach?” only for him to respond with “oh, about 198, give or take a few.”
I’ll miss him telling me weekly “now don’t put this in the paper” only for me to shake my head and smirk, as if I’d ever do something to get myself in trouble like it was 2007 again.
We all have the things we will miss about him.
We’ll miss the firm handshake that was always welcomed with a big smile.
We’ll miss the chuckle that was as unique as they come, followed by an occasional snort if you really got him going.
We’ll miss seeing his patented walk along the sideline, fresh off an ass-chewing handed to an official for a bad call.
We’ll miss both arms raised in the air when the ball crosses the plane of the goal line, followed by one finger held high, signaling for the extra point.
Unless it was to win the game. Then, of course we were going for two.
We’ll miss seeing him kicked back in his squeaky orange chair, telling the same old stories and jokes in the coaches’ office of the field house, something he could do for hours.
There are so many things we will miss about you, Coach.
But we are so incredibly lucky to have those things to remember.
Be good, muscles.