By Ross Forman
Hanford Dixon has one of the most unique signatures, period. Of all athletes, on all teams, in all sports.
“My autograph jumps off the page at me, so I know right away when asked to sign a (multi-signed item) whether or not I’ve already signed it,” said Dixon, who was a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selectee at cornerback. He played his entire career (1981-1989) for the Cleveland Browns, finishing with 26 interceptions, two sacks and a mountain of memories.
“I take the H (for Hanford), loop it around into the D, and then someway in my mind I say that the ANFOR is in there. I then add TOP DAWG. Then I do the D, followed by a straight line. In that straight line, to me, is the IXON. I then dot the I, draw a line through it for the X, and the ON is in that line.”
He finishes the unique signature with, YEAH BROWNS
“It’s become a fun thing,” Dixon said.
And how often do people ask him about his autograph?
“Every single time I sign something, at every appearance,” he said, laughing.
Dixon said he’s had the same signature since 1982.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t even know why I started doing that (signature); I know it’s been a while, a long, long time. As long as I can remember I’ve been signing like that,” he said.
Dixon was a first-round pick in the 1981 NFL Draft (22nd overall), and had one of his best seasons in 1987 when he reportedly had only seven passes thrown his way all season.
He said appearing once at the National Sports Collectors Convention was a joy, even though he is not a collector. It’s the fan interaction that he truly cherishes. After all, he is credited with naming the Cleveland Browns “Dawg Pound,” the section of the stadium known for its antics during Browns home games at the old Municipal Stadium, inspired by Dixon’s “barking” to teammates, especially fellow cornerback Frank Minnifield.
Dixon and Minnifield were selected by NFL.com as the No. 2 “Best Cornerback Tandem of All-Time.”
“I love to interact with the people; I think that’s very, very important. I try to treat the first collector just as I will treat the last, and vice versa,” Dixon said.
Dixon said shows “are great … they give people a chance to interact with some of their idols, those who they grew up watching on TV and probably never thought they’d get to meet. They can get an autograph and have a nice, short conversation. I like them.”
Dixon is not a collector; he just never got hooked on the hobby.
“It really baffles me some of the collectibles still out there. Some of the stuff never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “I like my (personal football) cards, but I don’t have many of them. Again, I don’t collect.”
And who does he want an autograph from?
No one. But he will ask to take photos with others.
Dixon has been a football analyst for WOIO-TV 19 (CBS) in Cleveland, and the color analyst for the high school football game of the week. Plus, he was the head coach of the Lingerie Football League’s Cleveland Crush.
In addition, he has worked as a player development executive for Horseshoe Casino, and a real estate broker. The jobs “keep me pretty busy,” he said.
Dixon said he still receives fan mail from autograph-seekers, daily.
“I used to sign a lot of stuff, (but not much anymore). You don’t know where it’s going,” he said.
“I was born in Mobile, Alabama, and went to college at Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. So coming to the big city, Cleveland, was exciting. But I’m a country boy at heart,” Dixon said. “I tried to give it my all every play, every down, every game. I always tried to be as good as I could possibly be. I played hard for nine years.
“I was a three-time Pro Bowl (selectee), though I think I should have been more, but I have a lot of respect for the two guys who (instead were selected): Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. They were great players.”
Dixon said his lone career regret also is his career highlight.
“The only regret that I have is that we lost three AFC Championship Games; we just didn’t get the chance to go to the Super Bowl. Nothing would make me happier now than to see the Cleveland Browns get to the Super Bowl,” Dixon said. “My career highlight was just playing in those AFC Championship Games, though we didn’t win them. Just getting there was special.”
Dixon sported uniform No. 29 – and he jokes that, in 2014, he’d probably be worth $16 million.
“I think (the current salaries are) great for the guys (now playing); I think they earn every penny. I enjoy watching the game. The only time I miss (playing) is during the playoffs – but absolutely not during training camp and the regular-season.”
Dixon remains loyal and loving to Cleveland.
“Cleveland is booming right now,” he said. “LeBron (James) came home (to the NBA’s Cavaliers); the Indians are playing a lot better; the Arena Football League’s Gladiators had a playoff season (recently). In fact the city as a whole, Cleveland, is booming right now. There’s a lot of construction going on downtown; new restaurants are opening up; new hotels are opening. Cleveland is no longer a joke city; it is no longer the Mistake On The Lake. That’s not the title anymore.”
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.