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Sterling Dixon welcomed at Spanish Fort; father brushes off criticism

All-America linebacker Sterling Dixon, seen in action for Mobile Christian at a recent 7-on-7, took part in his first practice at Spanish Fort Monday after transferring for his senior year. (Helen Joyce/Call News)


Faced with much faster competition, Sterling Dixon was happy being quickly forced to put any controversy connected to his transfer from Mobile Christian to Spanish Fort behind him.

Starting Monday on the Toros’ practice field, Dixon began learning to survive and then thrive in perhaps the state’s most demanding region.

Dixon, a four-star linebacker and Alabama commitment, officially transferred from the Class 3A Leopards to Class 6A Spanish Fort on Monday, his father told the Call News.

Dixon’s entry into 6A Region 1 — the home of defending state champion Saraland and five other schools which have won Blue Maps, including the Toros — is designed to test him against tougher competition and improve his brand and NIL value, Sterling Dixon Sr. said.

“6A Region 1 is like the SEC West,” his father said. “This will help him with branding, which is so important now. We want the opportunity to create as much value for him as possible before going to Alabama.”

After Monday’s initial practice at Spanish Fort, the three-time MaxPreps All-American admitted he must get accustomed to the speed of the 6A game.

“They welcomed me with open arms but it’s going to be an adjustment period for me,” Dixon said. “The difference in 6A and 3A right away is the speed of the skill players is much faster. I feel like I can go out and compete and make them better and they’ll make me better.”

Dixon’s transfer came one week before AHSAA teams open formal preseason practice, although the Toros started a week early because they didn’t have spring practice. Spanish Fort opens the season Aug. 24 at home against Fairhope.

Dixon’s father shook off criticism of the transfer across social media.

“That doesn’t affect what we are doing,” he said. “When people badmouth us, let me ask — do we criticize a business for doing what is best for that business? The NIL, that’s what it is. These kids, you’re talking about a walking, talking business. How can you criticize a kid for doing what is best for that business?”

Dixon told his shocked Mobile Christian teammates of his decision after a workout a week ago Monday.

“It was stressful,” Dixon said. “It took a long time to think about it and that’s why it was late. I didn’t want to leave my friends but this is a better opportunity for me to play on a bigger stage.”

After learning of Dixon’s decision to transfer to the Toros, a somber Leopards coach Ronnie Cottrell sought the high road but warned other coaches such transfers will become common.

“We wish him the best,” Cottrell said in a halting voice. “This has been going on for a while. I hate we lost him. I’ve never had a player make a move this late.

“He’s a four-star player going to another school. There will be others. This is something we’re going to see more of in the future across the landscape of high school football. It’s disappointing for sure but this is a new day in high school football. Sterling will be missed here. Our kids care a lot about Sterling. He’s been in our program a long time and did a lot of good things.”

Dixon’s father said Spanish Fort’s atmosphere, state championship history and tradition of producing great defensive players were factors in the decision.

“We’re all just happy and excited that all the commotion is over now and Sterling can go back to work,” Dixon Sr. said. “I think it’s a great move for the entire family. We visited over there and fell in love with the school and community and we heard the atmosphere on The Hill is electric. We wanted to be part of something special. Sterling wants to compete for a state championship.”

Dixon Sr. said Spanish Fort’s reputation for developing elite defensive players was also attractive, specifically mentioning former Toros stars D.J. James and Kris Abrams-Draine, who are now prominent SEC defensive backs at Auburn and Missouri, respectively.

“I told Sterling he could go be next in the line of great names,” said Dixon Sr., who added his son wants to become the first player in state history to be selected Lineman of the Year in two classes.

Dixon (6-3, 215) — the Class 3A Lineman of the Year in 2022 — led the state in tackles (172) and sacks (18) last season, unusual numbers for a down lineman who was either double teamed or saw opponents run to the opposite side.

Dixon committed to Alabama last December and recently shut down his recruiting.

Dixon has only one semester remaining before graduating and can enroll early at Alabama.

But before that, the Toros face the gauntlet of 6A Region 1 opponents, including Saraland, which visits The Hill on Sept. 15 and will enable Dixon to meet good friend, fellow Alabama commitment and Spartans star receiver Ryan Williams face to face across the line of scrimmage.

“I’m going to take it game by game but I’m for sure marking the Saraland game on my calendar,” Dixon said. “I hope I bring my ‘A’ game.”

Meanwhile, Cottrell said Mobile Christian will be undeterred in working toward the school’s first Blue Map.

“Our players are very resilient and they’ve overcome adversity before,” he said. “Our goals remain the same.”

1 Comment

  1. Stephen Nelson on August 2, 2023 at 8:59 am

    We welcome to Spanish Fort the entire Dixon family. We look forward to cheering for Sterling Jr this football season as a Toro.

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