Waco (Texas) Midway turned a lot of heads this year with a strong run to the state quarterfinals. Panther running back John Hubert and the offense attracted much of the attention, but the defense packed a powerful punch as well.
One player leading the way was top 2010 safety Ahmad Dixon, who recorded 114 tackles, eight PBUs, four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles on his way First-Team All-District, Super Centex and Second-Team All-State honors.
Stats and honors are great but he also showed himself to be a strong leader and mentor.
"I remember first coming in for two-a-days when we first put on the pads and I saw him hit somebody, I was like 'my goodness, I hope I can hit like that every day,'" freshman safety Shakiel Randolph said, who stepped up when senior Vyonte Guess was sidelined with an injury. "Just learning from him and seeing how he handles himself on the field, it's just a blessing to have somebody like that.
"He's kind of like a person I look up to as a freshman coming in. I see how he does stuff and I kind of mirror that."
Dixon (6-1, 194, 4.5) already holds offers from Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Texas Tech, and Arkansas, and when it comes to recruiting things couldn't be better.
"I guess you can say things are pretty good seeing as how I have almost every college in the nation coming through here trying to get me," said Dixon. "It's crazy, really."
As for a favorite, he claims no leaders at this point, but he does have Junior Day visits scheduled for Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Texas.
He is being recruited by Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and now that the holiday season is over he plans get in touch with the Longhorn staff.
Now that football is over Dixon has also turned his attention to the hardwood, where he is a small forward for the Panthers. After that it will be track and the 400m.
Joining him in his trip from football to basketball and then to the track is Randolph. The 6-3, 165-pound freshman is a center on the hardwood and is looking to run the 400m and compete in the triple jump.
Randolph and Dixon will be spending quite a bit of time together and have already developed a competitive nature with each other.
"We compete about everything, weight, height, how much we can bench, how much we squat, who runs the 400 faster," said Dixon. "We're always competing. We even competed about who would have the most tackles, most interceptions, most forced fumbles."
Dixon was quick to point out he's won out, but big things appear to be in Randolph's future.
Heading into the 2008 football season the freshman set his mind to making varsity, and while he had his doubts at first, he fought through and was able to have an impact in one of the best seasons of Midway's history.
"It was amazing," said Randolph. "I've been dreaming about it since the seventh grade. I've been working towards it and to finally reach that goal was amazing."
Randolph was not the only underclassman to make an impact for Midway defense. Defensive end Beau Blackshear and linebacker Marc Martinez also made quite an impact as sophomores.
In the spring Blackshear, who played quarterback in middle school and on JV, was fighting for the starting quarterback spot. The move though worked out well for everyone and the 2011 prospect couldn't be happier at any other position.
"Being the person that's delivering the blow at the end of the play," said Blackshear. "Coming off the ball you pretty much control yourself. You really don't have a certain thing to do except go get the guy who has the ball and fight off the guy in front of you."
Blackshear, who was named 16-4A defensive newcomer of the year, is now focused on increasing his speed and the 2009 football season.
"I have to work on my speed and everything because being a big guy and being my first year out there I wasn't the best I could be," he said. "This summer I'm going to be doing some camps and stuff and going to some camps and getting stronger."
Martinez needs to hit a growth spurt to truly be a big time prospect, but there is no doubt he has the instincts already in place. He was bumped to varsity as a freshman and in 2008 took on a bigger role for a strong defense.
"You've got to be a leader out there and pump everybody up and tell them to give it their all every play," said the sophomore linebacker.
In addition to being a unanimous 15-4A all-district selection, Martinez is also pitcher and shortstop on the Panther baseball team.
The Panthers also have another intriguing prospect for 2010. He has strong athletic bloodlines, and even went through spring practice before deciding to focus on basketball full time. Next year though keep an eye on Levi Norwood, son of Baylor defensive coordinator Brian Norwood.
His bloodlines do not stop with his father. His oldest brother (Gabe) was a member of George Mason's 2006 Final Four team, and another brother (Jordan) just finished his career at Penn St.
Last spring Norwood worked at receiver, cornerback, and safety, and while he didn't play in 2008 he is ready to hit the gridiron for his senior season.
"It was definitely disappointing not being out there, but it wasn't too bad," he said. "It was good getting to see them play but not being out there I definitely regret some not playing. I'll be out there playing with them next year."
Norwood is currently hearing from some small schools in basketball, but despite not playing as a junior he is seeing attention from Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Penn St.
As you can see Midway is losing a lot in loaded senior class that includes Hubert, Texas commitment Trey Graham, TCU commitment Ty Horn, and Todd Glaesmann, but there are still plenty of reasons college coaches will be around and Midway fans will be cheering.
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