Nov. 5, 2009
When Owls senior receiver Toren Dixon registered for Leadership 301 taught by Jeremy Gray this past summer, he never envisioned facing the challenge of putting some of what he learned into practice so quickly.
Dixon played a complimentary role when the Owls closed his junior season with seven consecutive victories, including a triumph over Western Michigan in the Texas Bowl. With the loss of several stalwarts from that squad, Dixon figured the time was right to fill the leadership void and assume the task of guiding the Owls back to the postseason.
What Dixon didn't imagine was, eight games into his final season, the Owls remain in search of their first victory of 2009. With his younger teammates' confidence eroded by all the losses, Dixon had to step up.
"One thing I learned about leadership is that a lot of leaders emerge in a crisis," Dixon said. "We're in a crisis right now. We're in a hole. We're 0-8, and I just apply (what I learned) every day when I come out (to practice) and try to lead by example and be positive because I know other guys are looking at what I'm doing being a senior and a leader."
Dixon has done his part on the field, too. He leads the Owls in receptions (42), receiving yards (437) and touchdown receptions (two), continuing his methodical climb up the Rice career charts in those categories. Dixon is tied for eighth in school history with 12 touchdown catches and ranks fifth in receiving yards (1,523) and receptions (143), impressive totals for someone who played sparingly as a freshman and was the third fiddle behind Jarett Dillard and James Casey as a sophomore and junior.
Now that he is the focal point and veteran of the receiving corps, Dixon takes seriously the responsibility that comes with setting an example.
"Hopefully I can leave an impression where they can remember me as far as my work ethic," Dixon said of the underclassmen. "Not only for the things I did on the field and in the locker room or in the weight room, but things I did off the field as far as reaching out to the community. There's much more to life than football, and I want them to recognize that. You play this game hopefully because you love it, but at the end of the day you have a purpose in life. You still have to help and reach out to others."
A political science major, Dixon will vigorously pursue a career in professional football next spring but will continue to cultivate relationships off the field should he opt to attend law school. Whatever path Dixon ultimately chooses, he appears better served for having challenged his theories on leadership and applying what he discovered in order to leave a legacy of hard work for those who are following.
"I don't think there is a such thing as a natural-born leader," Dixon said. "It's a learned behavior that we all have to exemplify, not just seniors but everyone on the team."
By committing to the task of leadership, Toren Dixon has proven that he will become one of Tomorrow's Leaders.