Playing behind Clemson legend Travis Etienne over the past three seasons, Lyn-J Dixon easily could have decided to bolt for another school where he could be the featured running back and get more carries.
Instead, Dixon chose to stick around at Clemson and stay patient for his chance to step into the spotlight, and now that time is here as he has an opportunity to take over as the Tigers’ starting running back with Etienne bound for the NFL.
As for why Dixon opted not to transfer elsewhere, the rising senior said this week the decision had a lot to do with him looking at the big picture – not just football, but life after it – and wanting to stay at the place he felt would help him be most successful off the field in the future.
“They have everything that will equip you good for life, and the coaches here, they care about you and they’re going to give you every tool that you need for life,” Dixon said. “With football on the side, they just try to equip you for life. So, that’s what really made me stay here.”
Despite the departure of Etienne, Clemson’s running back room remains deep and talented, and there is plenty of competition at the position in spring practice between Dixon, Chez Mellusi, Darien Rencher, Michel Dukes, Kobe Pace, and freshmen Will Shipley and Phil Mafah.
While the Tigers are loaded at running back, Dixon figures to get the first crack at replacing Etienne at the top of the depth chart this spring, and he is doing everything he can to improve his all-around game and seize the opportunity in front of him.
“I really have been working on my explosiveness and still been working on every little thing at my position,” he said. “Pretty much everything, really, because I know I just want to be better each and every day in everything I do.”
Heading into the 2021 season, Dixon has accumulated 1,372 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 208 career attempts and 183 yards on 18 catches in 38 games. The Butler, Ga., native enters his fourth season ranked second in school history, behind only Etienne, in yards per carry (6.60).
Dixon was banged up a good bit in 2020 due to a knee injury he suffered in the preseason. However, he played well for the Tigers down the stretch, rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh in Game 9 before recording a 19-yard touchdown run against Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale. He also had a 15-yard run against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
As Dixon began to get healthy midway through the season, his confidence started to build, and by the end of the year he was running just as well as he has at any point in his career, if not better.
“I know I was coming off of a little injury in fall, and I know they had held me back a little bit,” Dixon said. “But in midseason, it started getting back better, and I started building up my confidence and having the older guys that were here mentoring me and telling me things that I needed to do to upgrade my game, and took that advice and ran with it.”
It will not be easy for Dixon and the Tigers to fill the void left by Etienne, who exited Clemson as the ACC’s all-time leader in rushing, scoring, touchdowns and rushing touchdowns.
However, Dixon learned a lot from Etienne over the last few years that can help him as he tries to replace Etienne as the lead running back in 2021.
“Really just not letting things on the outside get to you and just maintain focus and worry about yourself and yourself only and nobody else,” Dixon said of advice Etienne gave him. “So, just keep striving to be for the better.”
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