Photo and Story via Wisconsin Athletics
Nothing in D’Cota Dixon’s life has come easy.
In light of that fact, his on- and off-field success at the University of Wisconsin likely made him an easy choice when it came time to name this year’s recipients of the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. The National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) has named Dixon one of five award winners worthy of the honor for 2017.
The Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award is intended to honor student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.
It’s fair to say Dixon has overcome the odds en route to becoming an All-Big Ten safety for the Wisconsin football team and a Dean’s List student at UW.
In an unstable family situation from the start of his life in Miami, Dixon was exposed to drugs, gangs and criminal activity from a young age. He saw a brother convicted of attempted murder and was placed into foster care as his mother struggled to provide for the family. He and another brother eventually were taken in by his father and his father’s girlfriend, Beth, but his father’s drug addiction intensified, leading Beth to seek guardianship and move the boys away.
Rehab later helped Dixon’s father begin to rebuild their relationship but, tragically, his father passed away suddenly just as Dixon was emerging as a talent on the high school football field. Dixon and Beth suffered another setback when they were evicted from their home during his senior year of high school, but he was taken in by his girlfriend, Grace, and her mother as he completed high school and earned a football scholarship to UW.
His time at Wisconsin has been filled with more adversity, beginning with multiple surgeries as a freshman. Then, last spring, Dixon suffered a life-threatening infection that left him unable to walk and in severe pain during a prolonged hospital stay. He fought through the infection and, despite missing nearly all of spring practice and the Badgers’ summer conditioning sessions, took the field as a starter at safety in UW’s season opener. He clinched the win over No. 5-ranked LSU at historic Lambeau Field with a fourth-quarter interception and went on to pick off three more passes as a key member of one of the nation’s top defensive units. Dixon also cemented Wisconsin’s win over No. 8 Nebraska by breaking up a pass to the end zone in overtime.
In helping the Badgers to an 11-3 season capped by a win in the Cotton Bowl, Dixon went on to be named third-team All-Big Ten. A rehabilitation psychology major, he also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors and a place on the Dean’s List.
Dixon joins Oregon State wrestler Ali Khalid Alshujery, Norfolk State basketball player Amber Brown, East Stroudsburg State swimmer Kelly Buyaskas and UCLA baseball player Nicholas Kern as this year’s recipients of the award. The winners will be recognized during the 2017 N4A Convention Awards Luncheon on June 10 in Orlando, Florida.
“All of the recipients represent the spirit and achievement of Wilma Rudolph through their determination and education,” said N4A President Kenneth Miles, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs & executive director for the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes at LSU. “Their profound impact is exponential and a model for all of us. It is with great distinction that we applaud their accomplishments. Wilma Rudolph reminds us that, ‘Triumph can’t be had without struggle,’ and struggle is the first step towards making progress. I know our recipients will continue to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable because they are choosing their destiny.”