“On this side of the state, this is THE job!”
Newly hired Pulaski County Head Coach Mark Dixon
By MIKE WILLIAMS
Mark Dixon has been hired as the next head football coach to lead the Cougars at Pulaski County High School.
Dixon comes to Pulaski County from Galax High School where he compiled an impressive record of 101-35 in ten years at the school.
He led the Maroon Tide to a state championship in 2015 and earned state runner-up honors in 2011 and 2019. He also led his team to six region championships in ten seasons.
Prior to his high school coaching career, Dixon played offensive guard at the University of Virginia from 1989-1993, playing for Hall of Fame coach George Welsh.
Dixon was named a first-team All-American by Football News in his senior year at Virginia.
He subsequently played nine seasons of professional football including stints with NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League. During his time in the CFL, Dixon was a member of the Baltimore Stallions – winners of the 1995 Grey Cup.
His professional career ended with a five-year run in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins where he started 60 games.
“We feel very fortunate to have a coach the caliber of Mark Dixon. He is a proven winner and comes highly recommended,” says Scott Vest, PCHS Athletic Director. “There were many qualified applicants for this position, but Dixon emerged as the best fit to lead our football program.”
Dixon succeeds Stephen James who resigned recently to accept a teaching position with George Wythe High School.
Dixon talked with The Patriot about his move to Pulaski County on Wednesday afternoon.
What are your feelings on coming to Pulaski County?
Dixon: “I’m super excited. I certainly know the tradition of Pulaski County football and Coach (Joel) Hicks. I’ve met him before and so I understand how important football is to the community and that really just got me super excited at the chance to just try to continue the tradition that he built. I’m good friends with Coach James so I had some insight there. On this side of the state, this is the job! To have an opportunity to come here and be a part of the tradition is an honor for me and my wife.”
What are your feelings about leaving Galax?
Dixon: “I spent a wonderful 10 years there in a wonderful community with so much support and so many great players. They’re the ones who turned it around and did such a tremendous job. My heart goes out to the players I’m leaving. Of course, I worry about them. I know Galax will find a great coach and they are great kids.”
What about this year’s Cougars? What do you know about them?
Dixon: “I’ve talked to Coach James and he feels like there is a great nucleus coming back. So that certainly has me excited. First thing is to get together with all the coaches and get a staff put together. That’s when I’ll get the most insight. I’ll start breaking down film here tonight and the next couple of days and get a better look at everything as we move forward. The main thing really is to just get with the staff and then get with the players and start building those relationships.
“We’re in such a different time right now. Really unchartered territory. Trying to navigate this (coronavirus).”
Do you think we’ll even have football this year?
Dixon: “I’m praying we do. I certainly think we will. When, where and how it starts is yet to be determined, but I think we will.”
Dixon: “At Galax we morphed from year to year depending on the skill kids, what they were good at. Ultimately if the offensive line is good, a lot of stuff works. If it’s not very good, not much works. The Galax program was built around the offensive line and that would allow the skill kids – whatever they were good at – they could showcase themselves. But it definitely starts with the offensive line. When that’s good, you’ve got options. Long story short, we’ve always run the ball a ton and then last year we threw it more, but historically we like to be physical and run the football.”
And your defense?
Dixon: “Very similar right now to what Pulaski County runs currently. Very similar. And it’s the same thing. It’s hard without seeing all the kids and talking to them and the coaches and us all sitting down. I like to sit down and formulate a game plan that will utilize all the kids and put them in the best positions to be successful. I’m not a cookie-cutter guy, in that this is my offense, this is what we’re going to run no matter what and they’ve got to be good at it. I don’t do that. I do believe in those five guys up front. If they’re good, then I think we’ve got a chance to be good.”
What about moving up from 1A to 4A?
Dixon: “I’ll spend the next month, month-and-a-half studying all the teams in the River Ridge and studying us and try to get a bead on everybody. Definitely stepping up in terms of levels, but when I went to Galax the big concern there was ‘this is such a small school can you bring that complicated NFL stuff to such a small school?’ That’s all I heard. Now the question has flipped, ‘can you bring 1A concepts up to 4A?’ Either way you go you’re going to get it. Part of it is the challenge that really has me re-energized. The challenge of a program this historic and being a part of it and the pressure to give the community what they deserve.”
How do kids react when they find out you’ve played in the NFL? Are they in awe?
Dixon: “They’re in awe for about 15 seconds usually. It’s really about teaching. Whether you’re teaching math or teaching football, if you tell them to do something and it works, they gain a little more trust in you. It still comes down to that. It’s just teaching. That’s how I’ve got to gain their trust. I’ve got to come in and get all the guys on the same page. That’s part of this whole thing and it has to happen early.”
Where did you coach before Galax?
Dixon: “Never had coached a day in my life before I got to Galax. First job I ever had. I came out of the NFL and then I went back to school. I was going to be a clinical psychologist. That was the plan. I was getting my masters and I was in the community and Galax asked me to coach the JV basketball team and I did that, and I caught the coaching bug. The very next year they gave me the head football job and that’s how it all started.
On his family:
Dixon: “My wife, Wendy is from Fries. I’m from Jamestown, N.C. right outside of Greensboro.
“We’ll be moving close to the school. I guess the first year our plan is to rent and kind of get the lay of the land on where we actually want to move. We’ve got to take care of our house in Galax, but we’re definitely moving to the Pulaski area.
“I will be teaching physical education at the high school.” (Wendy will be a math teacher at PCHS).
The Dixons have four children with three attending Virginia Tech and one attending Radford University.
(Mark Dixon coaching photo courtesy of the Galax Gazette)