After thinking for hours upon hours about what to write my column on yesterday, I came up with a brilliant idea. Let's see what Domenik Hixon is up to. Here's the story...
This week, college football players from across the country will meet in Indianapolis to decide their futures.
At the 2006 NFL Scouting Combine, scouts will time players' 40-yard dashes, measure their vertical leaps and gauge other intangibles, all to decide whether the player is worth a draft selection.
Zips receiver Domenik Hixon will not be there.
Hixon made the biggest play in University of Akron history when he caught the touchdown pass from Luke Getsy to tie the Mid-American Conference Championship in December. He is on billboards. He was on a UA commercial during the Super Bowl. His stats rank among the top 10 in the nation.
Still, the league did not invite Hixon, who during his senior season at Akron was eighth in the nation in receiving yards and seventh in all-purpose yards.
Admittedly, Hixon was disappointed.
"I was hoping for it," he said. "There's a lot of free publicity."
As a safety, wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner in college, Hixon has learned to play many roles, but perhaps none better than the underdog.
Coming out of Whitehall-Yearling High School in Columbus, the 6-foot-2 receiver was lightly recruited. Upon arriving in Akron, he found himself on a team that the community expected very little of.
In his first two years at Akron, Hixon played free safety. He led the team in tackles his sophomore year with 111. That total made Hixon the first Zips player to break the 100 mark in eight years.
Before Hixon's junior year, new coach J.D. Brookhart asked him to play wide receiver because all of Akron's starters graduated. Senior Charlie Frye needed new targets.
Despite seemingly being on track for the pros as a safety, Hixon gladly accepted his new role. He wanted to play both sides of the ball, but Brookhart wanted him to be fresh on offense.
"If I could've played both, I would've done it," Hixon said. "I love hitting and tackling and the challenge of being on defense. But I love catching the ball, too."
In his first collegiate season at receiver, Hixon led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. He also returned punts and kicks. Hixon led the nation with a punt return average of 17.1 yards per return. He was one of only six players in the nation to score a touchdown off a punt and a kickoff in 2003.
Coming into 2005, Hixon was on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation's top receiver. His 2005 stats only solidified his status as one of the nation's elite receivers, especially since he didn't have Frye as his quarterback.
Yet Hixon will be in Akron this week, while most of his competition for the NFL Draft will get to show off for the scouts in Indianapolis.
That doesn't mean Hixon's dream is dead. Along with fellow Zips, such as receiver Jason Montgomery and running back Brett Biggs, Hixon will run the same drills at Akron's Pro Day on March 10 as he would have at the Indianapolis combine.
Draft weak at receiver
The 2006 class of receivers is relatively weak compared to past years. That helps Hixon's chances. At this point, only a handful of receivers look to be guaranteed a first-day pick. After that, the projections are sketchy, Hixon said.
"Some people tell you that you're going to get drafted high," he said, "and some people say you're not going to get drafted high."
Looking around the league, Hixon and his agent Eric Metz believe several teams will need a low-cost third or fourth receiver next season. Possibilities include Seattle, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, Hixon said.
Hixon believes he can be more than just a receiver in the NFL.
"The big thing is going to be special teams, whether it be kickoff coverage or punt coverage. That's always in high demand," he said. "I kind of want to be a utility player."
Former Zips, such as Chase Blackburn, who started two games for the New York Giants last season, serve as motivation for Hixon that he can still play professionally even if he goes undrafted in the seven-round NFL Draft which starts on April 29.
For now, Hixon is training every day. He wakes up early to run and lift weights. At 200 pounds, Hixon runs the 40 in 4.41 seconds, a time he says will improve despite his plans to gain five more pounds.
Despite clearly being upset about the combine snub, Hixon stays positive as he has his whole career.
"It's all right. We have our own combine at Akron," he said. "Everything will work out."
Here's a Buchtelite story from Michael Beaven about the team's three walk-ons.
Here's the New York Times story about LeBron James and Akron. Very well written.