Jakob Dixon arrived in Lexington on June 12 for a Kentucky football camp as merely a blip on the Wildcats’ recruiting radar. Three days later, he left town with a scholarship.
Dixon’s nine receiving touchdowns as a junior at Pleasure Ridge Park High School put him in a tie for fifth among the top pass catchers in Class 6A, but, in his words, “Nobody really knew who I was” when he took his place among dozens of prospects at Kroger Field.
That changed when he started running routes.
Tommy Williams’ phone rang later that afternoon. PRP’s head coach was roughly 153 miles southwest in Bowling Green for a camp at Western Kentucky when he got the news: UK’s first-year offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello, wanted Dixon back on campus for another workout.
“I knew, ‘Now they’re serious about him,'” Williams told The Courier Journal. “Like, ‘We really want to evaluate him.'”
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For Williams, the development was not surprising but desperately needed. He and his staff knew — and reinforced to Dixon — that he has the physical attributes, athletic abilities and mental toughness of a coveted Division I prospect, but the wideout had only scholarship offers from Football Championship Subdivision programs Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky to show for it entering the month of June.
“He’s almost 6-foot-5; he’s 200 pounds; he runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash); he broad jumps 10 feet, 7 inches,” Williams said. “If he went to the NFL Combine tomorrow, he wouldn’t embarrass himself. He would literally be in the middle tier of every single one of those measurable drills. So, for a college coach to not want him is kind of wild.”
Dixon returned to Lexington on June 15 with Williams and assistant coaches Justin Kelley and Blake Atzinger. A former PRP teammate, Kentucky freshman cornerback Elijah Reed, was also on hand and had some advice for his friend: “Chill out.”
“Obviously, I was nervous,” Dixon said.
Those nerves weren’t evident to Scangarello and Vince Marrow, Kentucky’s tight end coach and recruiting coordinator. According to Williams, they saw similarities to a Louisville native on the Wildcats’ roster and believe Dixon can follow in his footsteps.
“Coach Marrow points over and says, ‘I think he could be Izayah Cummings. Do you think he could be Izayah Cummings?'” Williams said. “I said, ‘That’s exactly who I would have comped him to if you would have asked me before all this began’ — and no knock on Izayah, (Dixon) is faster than he is.”
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Cummings, the No. 8 recruit in the commonwealth’s 2020 class of prospects, caught 109 passes for 1,965 yards and 27 touchdowns as a three-year starter at wide receiver for Male High School. Since enrolling at Kentucky, Cummings has bulked up from 212 to 240 pounds and transitioned to tight end, where he caught 14 passes for 195 yards and three scores as a sophomore.
How does Dixon feel about those expectations and the possibility of changing positions?
“Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ve been watching Izayah Cummings since I was a freshman. He’s a dog on the football field, and he’s a good person to have right next to me helping me out. I feel like that’d be good.”
“He’s definitely physical,” PRP wide receivers coach Brian Stidham said. “His frame doesn’t show it right now, but he’s gonna grow into that. He is our most physical blocker on the edge.”
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Stidham raves about the mismatches Dixon creates all over the field and his ability to run routes from both the outside and the slot. They are just two of the reasons why he caught a team-best 33 passes for 663 yards as a junior.
Those linebackers who match Dixon’s size? He can outrun them. Those defensive backs who match his speed? He can knock them to the turf before taking a step past the line of scrimmage with a move the PRP receiving corps calls the “bully.”
“When we get down on the goal line, it’s no longer a 50-50 ball,” Stidham said. “It’s, ‘Throw it up (and) let Jakob go get it.'”
From what Williams saw and heard while Dixon was working out a second time in Lexington, UK plans to continue exploiting those mismatches.
“Listening to their offensive coordinator speak, he’ll put him wherever he wants to put him to create whatever matchup he wants, so he’s not pigeonholed into being this particular type of player,” Williams said.
Off the field, both Stidham and Williams praised Dixon’s maturation and the strides he has made as a leader heading into his final season at PRP. The team’s captains have also noticed, Williams said, and awarded the wide receiver the honor of wearing No. 1, a tradition the coach started three years ago.
“It was unanimous, and that’s not just because of his talent,” Williams said. “It’s because of who he is, and they’ve all grown up together. It’s a really special group of kids to begin with, but that’s the style of respect that he’s got of his peers.”
Dixon got the good news when he wrapped up his second round of drills in three days. Marrow and Scangarello wanted to offer him a scholarship.
“It was just a relief,” Dixon said.
The full magnitude of the moment didn’t sink in, however, until his head coach at PRP pointed out an important detail.
“I said, ‘So you realize this means that you’re not going to pay a dollar to go to school?’, and he said, ‘Wow, yeah, I didn’t really consider that,'” Williams said.
“That was the evolution of the month of June. I mean, you go into the month of June, and that does not exist. Three weeks later, and now you’re committing to one of the top programs in the country. It’s a whirlwind for him.”
After locking in his commitment to Kentucky on July 10, Dixon can focus fully on knocking out his final year of high school and helping PRP reach its first state championship since 2012. He’ll also need to spend some time shopping for Kentucky apparel to give to the members of his family who are Louisville fans.
“It’s all mixed,” Dixon said with a smile, “but at the end of the day, they support you.”
Reach recruiting and trending sports reporter Brooks Holton at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @brooksHolton.