On Thursday afternoon on the Mississippi State practice fields, there was a familiar face roaming around and a familiar smile. That face was former Bulldog and current San Francisco running back Anthony Dixon.
Like the rest in his business, Dixon is currently enduring the NFL lockout. But he returned to familiar surroundings this week to continue his offseason training.
"I am just back watching the guys and working out," said Dixon. "You know, we have the NFL lockout going on so I figured I would come back home and come back to where it all started.
"We can't talk to the coaches but we can practice with each other. But I am not doing that right now and I am down here back home right now. I am just going to work out with the team down here cause I don't think our quarterbacks at San Francisco are having a camp."
Unlike teams in the NFL, the lockout is affecting Dixon and the 49er's a bit differently. San Francisco will be playing for a new coach with a new offense coming to the Bay area.
"It is tough cause we do have a new coach and a new offense being installed," said Dixon. "So we will be a little behind but I think we will get it down. I have talked to Coach (Jim) Harbaugh when he first got there. He told me he was looking forward to me doing big things for the team. So we've gotten off to a good start."
As a rookie in 2010, the 6-foot-1 Dixon rushed 70 times for 237 yards with two touchdowns and also had five receptions for 11 yards. Naturally, it was a new challenge in his football journey and Dixon experienced the normal peaks and valleys as a NFL rookie.
"Definitely a learning experience," said Dixon. "But from what Coach (Mike) Singletary and Coach (Tom) Raftman told me, I had a good rookie season. They loved my energy all year and I had some ups and downs and they said that was expected. I played special teams and became one of our core special teams players. So that was good because I've never played special teams before."
Of course, Dixon's first taste of the NFL couldn't have had a better ending. On his first career carry against New Orleans, Dixon reached the end zone and did so on his Monday Night Football debut as well.
"Oh yea, you can't draw it up any better than that," said Dixon of his first NFL carry. "I was ready for it but when it happened, I didn't realize what was about to happen. I didn't expect my first carry to be for my first touchdown. But you just run into the game and do your job and see what happens."
Eying his second year in the pro ranks, Dixon said the plan could call for him to line up at running back and fullback. To make those adjustments, Dixon said he is working on getting his body ready for that possible changed.
"I played around 240 last year," said Dixon. "I've put on a little muscle and I am about 250 right now and working myself down again. And me and the coaches talked about me doing some fullback next year, too. So I am trying to bulk up a little more so I can handle both spots and I want to be versatile.
"Coach Harbaugh told me from Day 1 that he will rely on me more this year. He said when we all get back he needs me to be ready and that he is going to use me more this year. So ever since that day I have been getting ready."
Which is what has Dixon back in his old stomping grounds these days. He spent Thursday watching his former team go through spring drills and catching up with his old teammates, friends and coaches.
"It's great to be back here and I love this place," said Dixon. "You can't help but smile when you're back home. And it's always good being around what I think of as my family."
And Dixon will also be nearby one of his brothers, too, out in San Francisco. Coming from a talented family, Dixon also has two younger brothers currently playing in minor league baseball. And one of his brothers will be nearby in Double A baseball.
"Yea, I can still talk a little smack to them," said Dixon with a smile. "But eventually they may be making more money than me. Deshun will be playing in Single A at Tampa Bay this year and I think Rashun will be in Double A in Stockton (Calif.). That is cool cause he will only be an hour away."