Meet the New Steeler: Mandel Dixon

Tom Gilbert/Tulsa World

I checked the Steelers official website for the list of rookies, since various transactions seem to have taken place since the Steelers signed their UDFA class. Dixon caught my eye because he is apparently ageless, All the other players had an age listed next to their name, except him. Let’s see if we can figure out why.

So far the mysteries are only deepening. Dixon played two years for Pitt before transferring to the University of Tulsa. That would be Pittsburg State University, residing in Pittsburg, Kansas. It is a four-year school, and they play in Division II. Their team is called the Gorillas. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

Apparently Mr. Dixon. He was a fullback and running back at Pittsburg State, but was listed as a TE at Tulsa. The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes play in Division I, and Golden Hurricanes is a pretty awesome team name, too, so I guess I can see why Dixon would leave.

The University of Tulsa Athletics page was full of information about Dixon. Much of this information, however, merely deepens the mystery about this young man. (At least I assume he’s young. There’s surely some sort of age limit for college athletics.)

His hometown is given as Dallas, but he was, and I quote, “born April 21, 19393 in Oakland, California.” So he’s actually a visitor from over 17,000 years in the future. Which is pretty cool. Perhaps it explains why the Steelers can’t figure out his age, and how he was a starter on both offense and defense for three years in high school. (He also lettered all three years in basketball, so I take it he’s pretty athletic.) The stats for his [high school] senior season, still according to the UT site, were:

  • Averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 10.8 yards per catch (as both a fullback and tight end.)
  • He made (or “collected,” as the UT site would have it) 58 tackles at linebacker his senior season.

Head Coach Bill Blankenship (UT) was interested in the hybrid RB/TE player he thought Dixon could be:

The next major potential weapon at this position is junior Mandel Dixon… He came in during goal line situations for Pitt State and scored seven touchdowns on just 18 touches.

“Mandel Dixon came out of spring as probably the best true hybrid h-back we have,” said Blackenship.“Mandel has the size and physicality to play fullback but he also has the speed and ability to catch the ball to play out in the slot.”

His college stats didn’t quite live up to the hype, although this was in part because he missed four games during the 2015 season, for an unknown reason. (I told you he was mysterious.) He also had to sit out the obligatory year before playing, so although he transferred in 2013 he didn’t actually play until 2014.

After going undrafted he was invited to the Cowboys minicamp. They didn’t sign him, so he was free to join the Steelers after Matt Spaeth failed his physical this summer. (Spaeth had knee surgery during the off-season, and was not sufficiently healed and in shape by the time he had to take the physical.) This all happened four days ago, so Dixon is almost certainly the very newest Steeler.

As far as academics go, he majored in exercise and sports science. I can’t find anything indicating he graduated, but that doesn’t always mean much. And this is about all I can tell you about this young man that is in the least germane. Thanks to the UT bio I could tell you his favorite food is his mom’s meatloaf, or that Will Ferrell is his favorite actor, but I’m not sure either of those things help us to judge how well he is likely to do in the NFL. We’ll just have to wait and see.

If you can’t wait, here’s some highlights from YouTube. One thing which is frequently mentioned is his blocking, so perhaps this, along with his 17,000-odd years of experience, is what attracted the Steelers to him, especially as a replacement for Matt Spaeth:

This is shaping up to be an even more exciting training camp than usual. Besides the usual plethora of new talent to scope out we have the Lions coming for joint practices, as well as a man from Mars (Johnny Maxey) and a guy from the future. I guess what the latter tells us is that football isn’t going to die an untimely death anytime soon, so that’s comforting, anyhow…

Oh, and all the best, Mr. Dixon. Welcome to Pittsburgh with an h.  I look forward to seeing you at training camp.

If you get the chance, do that thing you’re doing in the picture. That’s pretty sweet, and I’m quite sure it will impress the coaches. And speaking of such things, Coach Tomlin loves it when guys really dominate the sled drill. Just a suggestion…

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