Andre Dixon buckles his helmet, as he is about to take the field at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Washington for the start of the Detroit Lions-Washington Redskins NFL playoff game with 78,000 howling fans in attendance. It is January in 2000 and Andre, a football and track star at Northeastern University, class of 1998, made the Lions roster, defying long odds. It is, indeed, a leap from playing at NU’s cozy home field at Kent Street Playground in Brookline to NFL playoff football. (Northeastern no longer has a football program).
Trying out for the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, the 6-foot, 200-pound cornerback was among the final cuts by the Packers before signing with Detroit where he played on special teams. Andre, who lives on Mission Hill with his wife Iyeoka Okoawo and their four children, fondly recalls his three years in the NFL. “Competing against the best in my sport was phenomenal,” said Andre. He added, “I was among the few to play in the NFL and three teams viewed me as good enough to help their teams and gave me a chance.”
Andre, who still looks youthfully athletic, often stops by Mike’s Donuts, where he lights up the place with his wonderful smile and I love talking sports with him. Born in Philadelphia, Andre has always been a big Eagle fan and he was as happy as a clam when the Eagles scorched our Patriots last month in the Super Bowl. Andre was employed by the Patriots as a member of their practice squad during Bill Belichick’s first year with the Pats. Said Andre about Bill Belichick, “Coach Belichick was a gentlemen and all business when he would stop by to observe the practice squad players.”
Andre recently accepted a new job at M.I.T. in the Department of Nuclear Science as a financial administrator. He had been working at New England Community Services as a grant writer. Andre, who has a master’s degree in education, is studying evenings at Northeastern in pursuit of his doctorial degree in higher education. Andre isn’t the only talented family member, as his lovely wife Iyeoka Okoawo is a terrific singer, who recently performed at the Mission Bar and Grill.
Happy 50th birthday to former Mission Hill resident George Fitzgerald (March 26). George, a veteran who served 21 years in the Army, is living in Philadelphia with his family and he works for the Department of Defense. George’s dad, Dan Fitzgerald, was a longtime member of the Mission Hill Veterans Post, who served in World War ll at the Battle of the Bulge.
Lovely Janet Earley is also 50 and Janet’s family and friends celebrated Janet’s milestone with a surprise party at the Emerald Society in Roslindale last month.
A tip of the hat goes to Emmanuel College Women’s Basketball coach, Andy Yosinoff, who won his 800th game last month in his long career at Emmanuel. Andy’s teams have qualified for the N.C.A.A. Div. III Tournament 18 times and his 2001 Emmanuel team reached the national semi-finals.
Mission Hill luminary Wayne Selden, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, made surprise visits to the Tobin Community Center and the Shelburne Community Center during his respite at the All-Star break. Wayne inspired the kids with his presence and gave away a few bags of basketballs. I’ll be cheering for Wayne and the Grizzlies when they play the Celtics this week (Feb. 26) at the Garden.
It was a nice turnout at the fundraiser for the Peace Garden at Egleston Square last month. Randace Rauscher and Cailin O’Toole organized the event, which raises funds for the beautification of the Garden.