We begin in the spring of 2001 with an eighth grade home room class from Terry making a field trip to the Mississippi Hall of Fame and Museum. Anthony Dixon, 13, steps up to the football touch-screen kiosk and taps up his hero Walter Payton. Along with films of Payton’s miraculous runs at Jackson State and for the Chicago Bears, there’s one of Payton’s arduous off-season training regimen. It shows Payton running up and down a river levee, sweat pouring and muscles bulging .
One of the Terry chaperones, a football coach and P.E. teacher, watches with Anthony. “That’s what made Walter Payton who he was,” the coach tells Anthony Dixon. “If you want to play in the NFL, if you want to play in a Super Bowl like Walter Payton, you’ve got to work like he did. That’s the key. You’ve got the ability; you’ve just got to work.”
Young Anthony Dixon promises his coach that’s just what he is going to do.
Flash ahead four years to 2005, and Anthony Dixon is back at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, this time to accept the Pop Stars Award as the top high school football player in Mississippi. He stays after the awards program and goes back to that same kiosk and punches up the Walter Payton story and watches it again and again. Cully Turner, the building supervisor at the Hall of Fame, notices Dixon and walks over to talk to him.
“You know,” Dixon tells Turner, “if I hadn’t watched this back when I was in junior high, I wouldn’t be here today. This was my inspiration. I watched how Walter Payton trained and I wanted to be like Walter. I ran those hills over and over.”
Flash ahead four more years to 2009 and Anthony Dixon is back at the Museum once again, this time to accept the C Spire Conerly Trophy as Mississippi’s most outstanding collegiate player. He has just set Mississippi State’s single season rushing record with nearly 1,400 yards and has become the leading career rusher at Dear Ol’ State with 3,994 yards.
So now flash ahead another four years to this Sunday when Anthony “Booby” Dixon will take the field in the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers. He will be playing in the Louisiana Superdome, the same place where Payton won his Super Bowl ring 28 years ago in 1985.
For all his achievements, Walter Payton did not score a Super Bowl touchdown. Maybe Anthony Dixon will. If so, wouldn’t it be nice if he dedicated it to Walter Payton? And, hey Boobie, we’d love to have that football at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, where you received your inspiration 12 years ago to become what you’ve become.
Note to readers: All the museum kiosks, including the two with Walter Payton stories, have been replaced in recent days. The 1996 technology has been replaced with 2013 technology. The difference is dramatic. More improvements are coming soon. Please visit and come see what you are missing at your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.