STAMFORD, Conn. – The accidental shooting death of former Stamford High School football star Marcus Dixon hit Kevin Jones hard.
Dixon rose out of a troubled background to become one of the best players in Black Knights history and land a spot on the team at West Point.
“When he got accepted to Army, that was one of the best moments of my professional career,’’ said Jones, who coached Dixon at Stamford. “He changed his life. So few people can do that in life. To have it end this way is such a tragedy. This is going to be one of those things that will take a long time for us to get over.”
Dixon, 22, died after accidentally shooting himself in the head, Stamford police say. Dixon removed the magazine from his semi-automatic and thought the chamber was empty when it went off, according to Lt. Diedrich Hohn. The bullet hit Dixon in the head and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Dixon had permits to carry the gun.
It was unclear whether Dixon was still attending West Point at the time of
Dixon had a troubled upbringing. At 15, he was homeless and his parents were out of the family picture. He lived with various friends in Stamford. His life began to change when he joined the Stamford football team. Jones and Marc Lyons, Dixon’s former coach in middle school and president of the Stamford Youth Foundation, helped Dixon get turned around. Dixon eventually was adopted by Rose and Barry McInerney, Stamford residents whose teenage daughter, Lauren, had been friendly with Dixon.
While Jones and Lyons worked with him on the football field, the McInerneys gave him a stable home environment and helped him as a student.
“Part of what makes this so hard is that Marcus was a friend to everybody,’’ Jones said. “He was a friend to the popular guys, he was a friend to least the popular guys. He was able to fade in with all the different cliques in high school.”
In Dixon’s senior year in 2008, he rushed for 977 yards and two touchdowns. He caught the attention of Army, and was a member of the team up until this year. A shoulder injury prevented him from making an impact, however, on the college scene.
“Marcus had a lot of issues growing up and was dealing with a lot of issues,’’ Jones said. “As great as he was on the field, he was also a great friend. But there was always issues we had to deal with. It was always like we had to balance Marcus out, we were always trying to achieve that balance. There was a lot to overcome.”
Dixon seemed to have pulled it all together when he enrolled at Army, but Jones said his rough early start always was just under the surface.
“I think when you’re dealing with issues that go as deep as his did, there’s always that chance that there’s an event that forces a lot of those memories back,’’ Jones said. “He needed to deal with those for the rest of his life. He had come so far, which is what makes this so tough. It’s an unspeakable tragedy. It’s every parent’s nightmare. Words escape you in such a situation. We’re still in shock.”