First, tell me about the Flag Football League – how did you got involved and what do you like about it now?
Well, it all started because of my work with Nike and Ralph Green. He brought it to me. I was hesitant at first, but when he threw out names like Michael Vick and Terrell Owens, I was interested. I was all about getting back on the gridiron. So with all of those Hall of Famers, why not?
Last year I had a good season and got to play in the league with Michael Vick. He was the guy I looked up to – the one I wanted to mirror my game after. I was all in.
For me and for a lot of others, this is an opportunity to get back in front of pro scouts. Not everyone gets that opportunity and exposure. This is an opportunity for us in a great platform.
And what else is happening outside of football?
I’m transitioning now into a business – DixonFit.com . It’s performance training – I’m opening up my own business. I get people out of their comfort zone – no matter your age, gender – it doesn’t matter. I help people get fit in mind and body. I have a good clientele in Oregon but am looking to grow it around the world.
Stepping back a bit – your professional sports career started with baseball? Was that something you liked more than football?
It did yes. Baseball was my first love. I was drafted by the Braves in the fifth round in 2007 and I wanted to live my dream of playing major league baseball. But my Senior year at Oregon Chip Kelly showed me his offense – it was one I couldn’t resist. That senior year went terrific- I was a Heisman candidate, but I tore my ACL. I could have gone back to baseball but I would have had to wait nine months, and it only took me four months to rehab and get healthy enough to get ready for my pro day. So baseball wasn’t a win for me. I rehabbed three times a day to get ready for the NFL draft. I just wanted to be a professional athlete.
Speaking of the draft, were you surprised to be taken by the Steelers?
I was surprised, to be sure. When I head Mike Tomlin’s voice though, I knew I was going to a great organization. It was a blue-collar, veteran savvy team, andI just wanted to go there and be a sponge. With guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, and the best defense in the NFL, I knew I was in the best situation I could have to get better. Practicing against that defense every day and getting help from the veterans made me better.
Did anyone help mentor you most – on and off the field?
For sure, and I still talk to him frequently to this day. Charlie Batch was from Pittsburgh so he was able to show me the ins and outs. He was a veteran and an NFLPA rep. He showed me how to be a professional on an off the field. I will be forever grateful to him for all the help he gave me.
Was it frustrating though being behind so many veteran, established quarterbacks?
As a competitor you always want to get on the field and contribute. Early on it was frustrating for me, but Batch showed me the way. To be a professional and to take care of the things I could control. I wanted to be a team player. So I just made sure to take care of the things I could control.
Did the 2010 injury set you back professionally – did it linger on in your career?
Not really. I bounced back from that quickly. It was minor – it wasn’t a full tear like the one I had in college. It was more just something that needed to be cleaned up. It didn’t linger. I was ready to go after a year. I was just behind a franchise quarterback.
Any fun stories of your time in Pittsburgh you remember and can share?
Oh yeah, there was definitely a hey rookie moment. I didn’t use headsets in college – we didn’t use those for playcalling. We used a number-based system and boards on the sidelines then. So when they gave me headphones in Pittsburgh, I thought I could talk back into the headphones. I started doing that – talking to the coaches in the huddle when Ward asked me what I was doing. I told him I was talking to the coaches and he told me they can’t hear you!
And I’m sure Hines Ward wasn’t one to give you grief after that!
Ha! Oh no. Not Hines!
You left Pittsburgh in 2012. How hard was that, especially going to rival team like Baltimore?
It was hard, but I needed to make the right call for my family and my future. I didn’t see any direction or future for me in Pittsburgh. I had to move forward somewhere else.
As for Baltimore. I was open to anyone who would give me an opportunity to play. Baltimore was ok to play for. It was hard because I was in Pittsburgh for four years. It was a class organization from the trainers to the coaches to the staff. And the community and fans. The Steel City is number one still for me.
And you won a Super Bowl with both teams.
I am blessed for sure. I don’t take that for granted. Most players never even get to a Super Bowl, much less win one.
Has being labeled a mobile quarterback hindered the way scouts and coaches have looked at your ability to be a “complete quarterback” do you think?
I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s more pressure being a dual threat quarterback. It’s an advantage to us. Every quarterback has something against them. Some can’t throw deep or have great arm strength. Being seen as a speed quarterback just means we have something to prove. That we have to show we can be more. It just adds fuel to the fire.
So what’s next for you – what do you hope to be next year?
That’s a great question. The sky is the limit for me. I have a lot in the tank and I’m in the best shape of my life. My transfer to the fitness world has helped me. I work out like crazy and my body is in phenomenal condition. I have more energy and strength. So I hope a scout comes in and sees that.
For now, I’m just using my fitness work to help people live life and be confident. DixonFit helps solve that for people.
Lastly, what thoughts do you have for young quarterbacks entering the NFL today?
I’d tell them to have fun. Sure the pros is all business but you have to take care of yourself and do what you can for what you can control. Some things are out of your hands. Its ok to get frustrated, but lean on the veterans to help you both on and off of the field. And I stress off the field because that’s where a lot of guys get into trouble. You have to respect your last name well, both on and off of the field.
Read more by former Steelers via the book Steelers Takeaways: Player Memories Through the Decades. To order, just click on the book: