Dillon Baxter, adieu: Remembering a brief but colorful college career
Less than two months after alighting at San Diego State, former blue-chip USC running back Dillon Baxter once again finds himself without a team -- or a scholarship. This is an unsurprising development to anyone who's been following Baxter's brief career (just more than a week ago, news broke that he was already being held out of spring practice thanks to "personal issues and academics"), but it is a sad one. His was a talent that deserved to see the field, however much his actions away from football made that impossible within NCAA parameters. More crucially for our bloggy purposes, captivating story fodder seemed to emanate from his being at every turn.
Baxter, a San Diego native out of Mission Bay High, was ranked at the top of his position in the Class of 2010, and entertained offers from high-profile programs around the country (Florida, Michigan and Oregon, to name few) before settling close to home at USC via early enrollment and drawing overt comparisons to Reggie Bush from Lane Kiffin during spring practice. A few short months later, the fun started. Baxter was suspended for the Trojans' season opener and later found to have perpetrated a highly entertaining hoax in which he claimed to have been illegally contacted by Alabama, Florida, Fresno State, Michigan and Washington. (Fresno State? Fresno State.) He would finish 2010 as the team's distant third-leading rusher behind Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford, recording 252 yards on 59 rushes in 10 games and capping his first college season with a touchdown pass at UCLA, the first Trojans tailback to do so since Bush in 2004. Oh, and the other game he missed was due to a one-game suspension after he rode around campus in a golf cart with a fellow student who turned out to be a registered sports agent. Y'know, stuff.
The 2011 season proved more grim and less fun. Baxter's family made the news just after Week 1, having a sit-down with Kiffin "to discuss [Baxter's] lack of playing time in the season opener." Baxter's girlfriend had his baby in October, around the time it was decided he would "focus on academics" rather than football. Less than a month later, he was granted his release from USC. It is the fervent hope of bloggers with columns to fill that Baxter turns up again somewhere, somehow. Our wish for him to raise the antics bar at SDSU with something infraction-y and scampish, but ultimately harmless -- like a high-stakes underground Magic: The Gathering tournament -- have been dashed for the moment, but Baxter's a young man yet. Plenty of time still for him to be caught keeping an endangered sea lion as a pet in his bathtub.