TUSCALOOSA — Respect is the cornerback’s ultimate motivator.
Earn too much, though, and the action goes elsewhere. That’s what Travell Dixon learned this fall as the nation’s top junior college cornerback at Eastern Arizona College.
The same dominance that landed him a spot in Alabama’s top-ranked signing class discouraged opponents from throwing his way.
“A lot of times he’s bored because we put him on the best receiver and he locks him up and takes him away,” said John O’Mera, Dixon’s coach at Eastern Arizona. “It’s tough to evaluate him because somebody would try him every once in a while and he’d pick it. It was probably a boring year for him because not many people attempted to try him.”
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds and a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash, it’s hard to blame them.
That size makes him a logical candidate to replace the 6-3, 190-pound Dre Kirkpatrick who left school a year early for the NFL Draft. Kirkpatrick also saw fewer balls thrown his direction as he proved himself in coach Nick Saban’s defense that’s known for producing top secondary talent.
Saban also has a reputation for selectively recruiting junior college talent he thinks can contribute immediately. DeQuan Menzie is the prime example of a cornerback who did just that two seasons ago and started every game for which he was healthy.
Menzie, who was a top junior college prospect himself, didn’t have the height Dixon will bring to spring practice in March.
“He doesn’t get muscled,” O’Mera said. “Anymore, receivers are getting taller and taller and corners are still small. They’re 5-10, 5-11. He’s just so strong, he doesn’t get muscled.
“I’m sure in the SEC, that’s one of the things they’re looking at too. He’ll be able to match up with some of those big-time receivers.”
Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Scout.com, said he’s the No. 1 junior college corner for more than his size and the four interceptions he had last fall.
“His change of direction and ability to turn and run make him a corner who can match up and be physical with some of the nation’s bigger receivers,” Kennedy said. “Very good in run support, should be ready to play early at Alabama.”
Dixon landed in Tuscaloosa, where he’s already enrolled in classes, thanks in part to an old friend of O’Mera’s.
A phone call to then-Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain alerted the program to Dixon’s talent.
That put defensive backs coach Jeremy Pruitt on a plane headed to Thatcher, Ariz., to check out spring practices.
“He definitely passed the eye test,” O’Mera said. “You watch his film and he looks very good. Next thing you know, they offered. They were the first offer and he stuck with them.”
Recruiters later came from a long list of power programs from USC to Nebraska and Florida. Dixon visited Florida State and Mississippi State after taking an official visit to Alabama for the regular-season game with LSU.
After committing to Alabama, “they all came in and made their run at him,” O’Mera said. But he stuck with the Tide.
Before long, O’Mera said, Alabama will have a good idea how special Dixon can be.
“Not everybody can call on a junior college kid and say hey, this is a guy that’s just a great citizen,” O’Mera said. “We’ve never had any trouble with him. He’s a student that works real hard in the classroom and we never had any type of legal trouble or anything like that. He’s just been a model citizen and a model kid.”