Southern Miss’ Dixon forever linked with Elway, ‘The Drive’|[3/26/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 28, 2005

This is the second in a series profiling the inductees to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

One play would have changed the way the world remembers Hanford Dixon.

All it would have taken was one wobbly duck in the swirling winds of old Cleveland Stadium. One errant throw, tipped pass or incompletion on that cold January day in 1987, and Dixon’s Cleveland Browns would have gone to the Super Bowl.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Instead, it was John Elway who made play after play. His rifle arm slinging bullets through the light snow, Elway etched his own name in NFL lore and started a four-year run of misery for the Browns.

Cleveland, one of the best teams never to reach a Super Bowl, became remembered for its big-game failures instead of its remarkable accomplishments. And Dixon’s legacy as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in the 1980s was largely forgotten.

In some places, though, Dixon’s memory still looms large.

Every time a Browns fan barks along the shores of Lake Erie, they conjure up his spirit. And in Mississippi, he’s remembered for an earlier time when he was a big part of a golden age in Southern Miss’ football history.

Dixon, who played cornerback for the Golden Eagles from 1977-80, helped the team to a 28-17-1 record in his four seasons. The record included four wins over Mississippi State, three against Ole Miss and an Independence Bowl victory in 1980.

On Friday, Dixon’s legacy in Mississippi will be secure. He’ll be inducted to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

“I spent a few years there, and it felt like more than that because I come back a few times a year,” said Dixon, a native of Mobile, Ala. He adds with a laugh, “I just wonder what took so long.”