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Dixon’s Determination Stirs Memories

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When Golden West announced in the spring of 1996 that football Coach Dennis Dixon was going to take off a season, Dixon said he planned to be back.

At the time, Dixon asked that the fact he had recently been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis not be made public. He knew there is no cure for the disease but still had every intention of beating it.

It was just another obstacle to overcome for Dixon, who had recently completed his first year as head coach after 18 years as the offensive line coach. There was no sport or problem he believed he couldn’t master with hard work.

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It was that spirit and determination that was celebrated Saturday by the standing-room-only crowd in the chapel at Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach to honor Dixon, who died Wednesday at 50.

When an invitation was given to share a story or an observation about Dixon, more than a dozen spoke about the man who played tight end on Fullerton College’s 1965 national championship team. Dixon also played for Bear Bryant at Alabama.

Some were his friends from football circles, others were friends he made while competing in triathlons. Family members also spoke.

After only a few stories, it was clear Dixon had touched many either as a friend or mentor.

A portion of a letter from Glenn Parker, an offensive lineman with the Kansas City Chiefs, was read at the start of the service.

Parker hadn’t played football in high school, but it was Dixon who turned Parker from a man who wanted to lounge on the beach into a standout offensive lineman. After Golden West, Parker got a scholarship to Arizona, then played in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills.

“Dennis, in many ways you taught much more than football,” Parker wrote. “You taught me to be a man. . . . and to be scared to death of my offensive line coach.”

Nick Fuscardo, Fullerton College baseball coach, met Dixon when both coached at Troy High. They remained friends and often played golf together after Dixon went on to Golden West in 1978.

“He was a very intense guy but a great friend,” Fuscardo said before the funeral. “When [Fullerton] was struggling, he would call me to give me encouragement. He never went into a game of any kind believing he was going to lose. It was the same way when he got sick. He rode his bike to San Diego. He said he was going to beat this thing because his body was so strong.”

Chip Marchbank, Golden West’s longtime trainer who is now the college’s athletic academic advisor, told of another side of Dixon.

Dixon used to go into the fitness lab to work out with and encourage people who recently had strokes or heart attacks.

Once Dixon became ill, he often visited Marchbank. One day Dixon said, “Chip, I’m sorry.”

Marchbank asked him to explain.

“I’m sorry I didn’t do more for those people when I was healthy because now I know how they feel.”


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