Taken from his birth mom at age 6, safety D'Cota Dixon found solace in a turbulent world, thanks to football and the kindness of a woman who stepped into his life
By Jeffri Chadiha | Published April 10, 2019
D'Cota Dixon squinted and grimaced, all the while hoping that looking harder might make it easier to find what he so badly wanted to see. As his sister, Lovie Fance, drove her sedan through the Coconut Grove section of Miami, he watched a smattering of lost souls searching for a safe spot to sleep within an intimate neighborhood he once called home. While surveying every street corner and back alley, Dixon kept his spirits high. His mother, Sheila, was out there somewhere among the homeless. If he stuck with this search long enough, he just might locate her.
When Dixon started this trek, his sister warned him it wasn't going to be easy. They had talked the night before, on the first Christmas Eve they'd spent together since D'Cota was a toddler, and Lovie reminded him about all the demons their mother had been fighting.
"Sometimes we find her," Lovie said to D'Cota during that conversation. "And sometimes we don't." D'Cota nodded somberly, aware he had nothing to lose at this point, especially because the trip already had been so fulfilling.
As soon as the Wisconsin Badgers had arrived in Miami for the 2017 Orange Bowl, D'Cota, a starting safety, had raced over to see Lovie and his other half sister, Royal Donaldson, immediately after eating dinner with the team. After rarely visiting for more than a decade, D'Cota hugged the two women tightly and laughed about the good fortune of Wisconsin playing a game against Miami in his hometown. A few minutes later, D'Cota plotted the next step in this reunion. He wanted to see his mom, and he wanted to do it as quickly as possible.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst understood. When Dixon approached Chryst after practice on Christmas and asked to skip a planned team activity to find Dixon's mother, Chryst had a brief response for his star defender: "What are you waiting for?" he said. But now, after a few hours of driving around, the reality of this part of the journey was hitting Dixon. Finding his mother, a woman he hadn't even seen a picture of in 14 years, might just be comparable to spotting an ant with a drone soaring high above the streets.
But then something strange happened. The car drove past a vacant home where a slender black woman wearing a tie-dyed shirt sat on a blanket in the driveway. Dixon snapped to attention and peered over his right shoulder as Fance kept moving down the street.
"Stop the car," Dixon said to his sister, all the while eyeing the woman from a distance. "We need to go back."