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#DixonForHeisman: The TNIAAM Conversation with Syracuse Punter Riley Dixon

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Syracuse punter and TNIAAM favorite Riley Dixon looks back at the first half of the season and explains how he hopes to improve over the next few months.

Jeff Zelevansky

In case you haven't noticed, it's been quite the season for Riley Dixon.

A pair of fake plays and a high punting average have re-ignited a Twitter campaign on his behalf. He stopped by to talk with us about his season, his hashtag and growing up as a Syracuse fan.

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By now, I'm sure you've noticed the #DixonForHeisman campaign. Your thoughts?

I have noticed that. But I'm just doing my job.  That's all I do and however good I can do my job, that's my only goal this year.

You have somewhat of a limited role as a punter, but you've had two big trick plays this season.  When you get to expand and do more, how much does that excite you?

Oh yeah. It's so exciting to be able to make an athletic play. It's definitely something that I really enjoy and it kind of brings back some memories from the past.

You said that you "blacked out" before throwing the first touchdown pass. What was going through your mind before running the fake punt against Notre Dame?

I was excited. I was just ready to make a play and put the team in a better position to win the game.  That's really all I try to do.

Your 40 time looked pretty good on that run. Do you know how fast you are?

No, I'm not that fast. I was running scared so I had a little extra MPHs behind me.

We've seen a passing touchdown and a long run from you this season.  Any other tricks up your sleeve?

I'm just going to keep punting the ball.

I know some of your family came down to New Jersey for the game in MetLife.  How closely do they follow your college career?

They come to as many games as they can and any game they can make it to - time permitting and location permitting. They really did enjoy that one.  They're always supportive of whatever I do, which is great.

You grew up in the Central New York area and went to high school at nearby Christian Brothers Academy. Does it make this season any more special because Syracuse is like your hometown team?

Yeah, I'm playing in front of my home crowd.  I get to play in front of my family every week so it's definitely a good thing to be able to keep that family connection going on.

Did you follow Syracuse sports when you grew up and, if so, was playing in the Carrier Dome always the goal?

I was always a Syracuse fan, but kicking kind of came about last minute.  I never thought I'd be able to make it to a Division-I college like Syracuse, but I guess it was in the cards. I started punting in 11th grade.  I punted when I was really young, but 11th grade is when I kind of switched back over from quarterback to punter and it kind of took off from there.

Why do you make the switch to punter?

I actually got hurt in 10th grade in a varsity football game playing quarterback. I was hurt on the sideline so I started kicking field goals, realizing that I kind of remembered some of those things when I was younger.  The following year, I kicked for varsity and punting came a little bit later. But I was just trying to fill roles on the team and it ended up being all right.

Do you have specific memories of watching Syracuse when you were younger?

I was just a huge Donovan McNabb fan growing up. He was always my idol and I always looked up to him. Other than that, I'd just stay on top of it by watching games or watching Rob Long punt the ball the last couple of years that he was here.

How much has Rob worked with you?

Rob's actually a good friend of mine. He's always been there to help me when I'm struggling with certain things - punting or even in school.  He's always been kind of like a mentor to me.

You're averaging about 43 yards per punt so far this season. Is there anything you can do to make that even better?

I'm always trying to improve the average. And I'm always trying to improve the net average - how great the coverage team is and a lot of that falls back on me and how I'm getting my hang times up so the guys have time to run down there.  I'm also trying to keep the ball out of the end zone for touch backs. I've had a couple this year and I'm trying to get rid of those.  Like I said, put my team in the best position to win and to score. Pinning a team inside their own ten yard line is great. Having the ball come back out to the 20 is not. I'm just working on little things like that.

What was the moment like last December when you found out that you earned a scholarship? Was it Scott Shafer who told you?

Yeah, he called me and my dad in for a meeting and we went in there and he told us. And it's what you pray for. It's what you dream for.  That was one of the best days of my life.  I could take that burden off of my family, go to school for free and just enjoy doing what I love doing.