Recognized alongside the top linebackers in the country, Spanish Fort senior and Alabama commit Sterling Dixon was recently named to the High School Butkus Award’s preseason watch list.
Dixon, a four-star prospect listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, was one of 51 high schoolers from 19 states selected to be in the running for the honor that is bestowed upon the most impactful linebacker in the game. Awarded annually at the college level since 1985, The Butkus Foundation expanded the recognition to the high school level in 2008.
Chilton County’s Demarcus Riddick, an Auburn commit, and Hoover’s Bradley Shaw, an uncommitted 4-star prospect, joined Dixon in representing the state of Alabama.
“It's a blessing. I just thank God, thank my family and really thank my teammates and coaches because without them I wouldn't be in this position,” Dixon said after Friday’s 14-13 win over Baldwin County.
After the initial honor settled in, the Mobile Christian transfer said he felt similarly motivated to keep working on his craft.
“Somebody sent it to me. I was very excited, but I’ve got to continue to work,” Dixon said of his initial reaction. “I was like, ‘Man, it's special,’ and honestly, I moved on. I'm just trying to continue to work and get better, that's really the biggest thing.”
Since joining the Spanish Fort Toros at the end of the summer, Dixon has switched from an outside linebacker role to an inside linebacker and credited the coaching staff in aiding that transition.
“It's been different, just playing a different position at inside linebacker. I used to be an outside linebacker, so it was quite a change. But I'm just here to buy in and just try to get better each and every day,” Dixon said. “For me, I'm more of a finesse guy. At inside, you have to take on guards and have to be able to read and slow down. I'm kind of a guy that likes to just go full speed at everything and fly around.”
After he was named the Class 3A Lineman of the Year in 2022 as the state leader in tackles (172) to go along with 18 sacks, Dixon has joined forces with Spanish Fort edge rusher and Louisville commit Cole McConathy who set a state record for sacks in a single game last year. In three games this season, McConathy’s 7 sacks had him tied for tops in the state according to MaxPreps on Monday.
Through three games with the Toros, Dixon’s 48 total tackles were tied for 4th in the state and his 3 sacks were tied for 19th on MaxPreps’ lists as of Tuesday.
In Friday’s win over Baldwin County, Dixon collected 15 total tackles between 2 solos and 13 assists where 2 went for losses. He’s now registered double-digit tackles each week with 15 total against Fairhope and 18 total against Blount.
Dixon said he and McConathy have already created some mismatches in coverage where if one is taking on extra blockers, the other should be free to deal some damage. Part of that could have led to a 3-sack night for McConathy on Friday where his last one killed a Tiger drive when the Spanish Fort defense needed it the most.
“He's an animal,” Dixon said of McConathy. “Rushing beside him on the edge, he can go to a three technique, he could play out to five; anywhere I need him. If I'm taking on a double team, he's open. If he's taking on a double team, I'm open so it's kind of crazy.”
The Toros have a big test next on their docket with a home contest against the defending champion and top-ranked Saraland Spartans. While there will be plenty of eyes on that matchup, The Butkus Foundation will have its sights set on Dixon for the rest of the season.
“It's a blessing I'm just proud to be a part of it,” Dixon said. “I just want to thank God again.”