New York Jets’ Marcus Dixon was showcased on HBO’s Real Sports last night, where his story about his life and how he ended up in the NFL playing for the Jets occurred. I had no idea about his story until last night.
Dixon, who is African-American, was accused of rape by a sophomore classmate, a 16-year-old white girl. A jury determined that the sex was consensual, but because of the girl’ s age, it applied the Georgia Child Protection Act and convicted Dixon of statutory rape and child molestation.
Just like that, Dixon, an honor student with a college scholarship, was looking at 10 years in jail. Several members of the jury were reportedly stunned that the sentence was so severe.
It sparked an immediate firestorm because it was the first time the Protection Act had been applied in that fashion.
Dixon’s supporters argued that he was being imprisoned for what amounted to teenaged sex. Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children’s Defense Fund, famously called it a “legal lynching.”
Looking back, Dixon said he was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received, which led to national exposure.
Aside from “Real Sports,” he appeared on Orpah’s TV show.
“I had a huge supporting cast,” he said. “Without Bryant … I mean, Mr. Gumbel, and Oprah, there’s probably no way people on the national level would’ve known about my story. Because of them, I got a lot of help.”
On May, 3, 2004, the Supreme Court of Georgia overturned Dixon’s conviction and he was released the same day.
He made the most of the opportunity, enrolling at Hampton (Va.) University. He played well enough to land a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, sticking until 2010.
When the Cowboys cut Dixon in September 2010, the Jets picked him up on waivers and groomed him the entire season, projecting him as a future contributor. This year, he has emerged as the team’s top backup on the defensive line, playing mostly in passing situations.
Dixon is an unheralded member of the team, never drawing the legions of media types that usually camp out in front of Burress’ locker. Thirty feet away from the Plaxico fuss, Dixon dresses quietly, minding his business and assuming very few in the room know about his past.
“I’m here now, there’s nothing I can do about the situation eight years ago,” he said. “I’m playing in the NFL. I’m living my dream. That was a bump in the road I had to get over. I went through it. I definitely didn’t want to go through it, but me going through it. … If it helps somebody else, it served its purpose.”
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Erik Manassy is the author of this blog and a self proclaimed “Die Hard” New York Jets fan.