“Domenik Hixon walked out of the visitor’s locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium, looked his father, Marvin, in the eye and said, Dad, they think he’s paralyzed. Hixon, a kick returner for the Denver Broncos, was referring to Kevin Everett, a member of the Buffalo Bills special teams unit.””
Domenik Hixon walked out of the visitor’s locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium, looked his father, Marvin, in the eye and said, Dad, they think he’s paralyzed.
Hixon, a kick returner for the Denver Broncos, was referring to Kevin Everett, a member of the Buffalo Bills special teams unit.
During the opening kickoff of the second half, Everett made a solid hit on Hixon. Everett’s helmet hit Hixon’s shoulder awkwardly. Everett was carted off the field on a stretcher, and it was first thought that the injury could prove fatal. Then they said he would be paralyzed for life.
Everett eventually started walking under his own power in December and made a recovery some called a minor miracle.
Colliding with someone in a freak accident could happen to anyone, but Hixon still took it hard.
As they had done all his life, his parents Marvin and Brigit, would help pick up the pieces. They would watch the news or look on the Internet for updates on Everett’s condition and relay the messages to Domenik.
I’d call and tell him we have everybody praying for him-for both of them, Marvin said. That was bad. When that happened that was real bad. ‘
No doubt that Marvin was also devastated. He had turned his life upside down for his son’s athletic career.
When Domenik was about eight or nine years old, Marvin knew he had a special athlete on his hands. At the time, the Hixon’s lived in an Army base in Germany, where Marvin was stationed. Domenik dominated any time – and any sport – he played.
I told my wife, he was something special, Marvin said. I told her he was going to play something professionally.
Domenik excelled in basketball, soccer and baseball as a child, playing against other kids who lived on the base.
When he was a little older, he played baseball and basketball throughout Germany, Belgium and France.
Finally, when Domenik was 12, Marvin made a decision to move back to the United States so his son would have a chance to play high school sports.
I would still probably be in Germany, but when he was going into the eighth grade I told my wife we had to go back to the states so he can play sports, he said. That’s the only reason I came back.
They moved to Whitehall, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, before Domenik entered the eighth grade. The following year he played football for Whitehall-Yearling high school on the freshman team, but his mother wouldn’t let him play his sophomore year because Hixon had subpar grades.
But he did play basketball and baseball. Hixon started on the varsity teams for both sports. He pitched and played outfield on the baseball team and was an All-Ohio honorable mention as a point guard.
I knew he was good at football, but I didn’t see football coming, Marvin said.
During his junior football season, Hixon wasn’t on the recruiting map whatsoever. He split time between the varsity and the junior varsity team.
It didn’t deter Hixon.
He loved the sport and just wanted to play football, Marvin said. I always told him, whatever you do, whether it’s practicing or playing, you play your hardest and practice your best because the only person you cheat is yourself.
Marvin would again have to make a decsion involving the family and again he would do what was best for his son’s athletic career.
Between Hixon’s junior and senior year, the Army wanted to promote Marvin, but they would have to relocate. Marvin told them he would go anywhere as long as they waited until his son graduated from high school. They said they couldn’t wait. Marvin sent in his retirement papers the next day, after 21 years in the Army.
Hixon would finally get his chance during a senior year. In a preseason game that year, Whitehall-Yearling’s top kick returner, McHale Holliday, was wrapped up on a kick return and broke his ankle.
Hixon started returning kicks and was successful, but was still unheralded as a potential recruit.
Until Luke Fickell, an assistant at the University of Akron at the time, was watching a tape of one of Whitehall-Yearlings games. Fickell originally was looking at linebacker Anthony Jordan as a potential recruit, but once he saw Hixon in action, he knew had to see him in person.
Marvin said that Fickle, now an assitant defensive coordinator with Ohio State, planned on leaving the game at halftime but didn’t because the game was entertaining. Domenik returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Ficklle extended an offer to come visit Akron that night.
God made Luke Fickell take a look and say ‘this kid has some skills, Marvin said.
At UA, Hixon put his range of talents on full display. The first year he was with Zips, as a true freshman he started the final eight games of the season at safety, and the following year he led the Zips in tackles. After Lee Owens left the Zips, J.D. Brookhart took over and moved him to wide receiver where he left the school second on the career receptions list. Hixon made the most famous single play in Zips football history by making a diving catch in the endzone during the final minute of the 2005 Mid-American Conference championship game. The catch gave the Zips the win and their first ever MAC championship.
Marvin and Brigit were at the game and were showered with congratulations from other parents and fans.
They made it to all but three Zips games, both at the Rubber Bowl and on the road Domenik’s four years.
After his success at UA, Hixon was a sure NFL prospect but slipped to the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft – where he was drafted by Denver. He had broke his foot while doing private workouts for NFL scouts in UA’s field house.
He had surgery in March before the draft and had to sit out his entire rookie season while rehabbing.
But he was ready to play on opening day this season. All was going well until his collision Everett.
Hixon played tentatively in the following games.
On Oct. 2, he called Marvin. He said that coach Mike Shanohan wanted to talk to him.
We knew what that meant, Marvin said. He called me back and said he got cut. I said if it was meant for him to play football, it will work out.
I told him he always had his mom and dad.
Hixon wasn’t without a team for long. He called Marvin the next day and told him Tampa Bay was going to sign him. Then the New York Jets and three more teams. Then he got the final word: he was going to the New York Giants.
Hixon had eight kick returns totaling 274 yards in the final 12 games of the season, none however were more important than his return in the final game of the season. With Giants playing the undefeated New England Patriots, Hixon returned a punt 74-yards for a touchdown.
It was the first game Brigit and Marvin were not in attendance at one of their son’s games since his sophomore year at UA.
I was devastated, Marvin said. We said, we weren’t missing another game. We traveled with him every weekend and were burnt out. We’ve been doing this ever since college. He’s worth it, but we need a break every now and then. We took a break at the wrong time.
But they were in attendance during the NFC Championship game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The underdog Giants came away with a 23-20 win and a trip to the Super Bowl. Domenik had a key fumble recovery late in the game.
This trip to the locker room was a little different.
It was freezing cold but we were there, Marvin said. We were all smiling, happy and
freezing. (Domenik) was smiling from ear to ear.
Whatever happens, we support him.