STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Penn State senior corner Johnny Dixon has true NFL potential and dozens of reasons to want to make it. His drive to succeed isn’t for the money or the fame, but for his family cheering him on from 1,100 miles away.

Dixon burst onto the scene in 2023 with his first interception of the year against Illinois. Cornerbacks coach Terry M. Smith says Dixon plays with maximum effort and will be an elite defender in the NFL.

“Johnny’s probably one of our more caring and giving guys,” Smith said. “He cares what his teammates think of him. He wants to be the very best. He studies the game, he prepares, you know, and then he goes out there and plays hard.”

Dixon spent two seasons at South Carolina before transferring to Penn State. He’s in his third season with the Nittany Lions.

“Being from Florida, football is all you know,” Dixon said. “Up here, it seems like football is all they know. So it just it felt natural, felt like home.”

But home is really Tampa, Florida in a family with six older brothers and three older sisters. Even in a family that size, Johnny stands out as the only sibling to play football in college.

“Being the youngest and always having this dream for football, they made sure that I tried to not mess it up,” Dixon said. “Outside of football, they raised me. They taught me right from wrong. They kept me out of trouble. Like if I was ever getting in trouble, my mom would call my brothers on me. If I was ever getting disrespectful, my sisters would snap on me.”

He credits his success in making it to college to his family, and now Dixon is focused on making a difference for his family while also making an impact in the Penn State secondary.

“I was able to grow up a lot more fortunate than my siblings,just off circumstances,” Dixon said. “So I feel like I owe it to them, everything they put in to me. I just want to give it back to them one way or another.”

Dixon’s goal is to play in the NFL and his coaches know he has high-pick potential in the 2024 NFL Draft.

“After I make some money and have figured out my career, I want to help make parks more accessible around the city of Tampa, just like build them up,” Dixon said. “When I was growing up, you had to go to certain parks to find a good basketball court, certain parts of the football field. Later on, I want to start programs that just help kids find talents and their passions.”

Dixon wants to use his platform to inspire kids to pursue their passion, no matter their circumstance or resources.

“There are a thousand ways to do things, you know,” Dixon said. “You don’t have to live in a box. There’s a thousand ways you can make money. You can meet new people and connect by your talent. There’s more than one route. That’s all I try to show people.”

Penn State Football fans will get closer than ever to the team this fall, as abc27 launches Nittany Insiders. Every Saturday, the preview show will break down Penn State’s matchup, feature player’s stories off the field, and focus on NIL progress.

The weekly preview show will be co-hosted by former NFL linebacker and Penn State All-American Michael Mauti and abc27 Sports Director Allie Berube.

Each week Allie and Michael will break down the week’s upcoming game and share what the Nittany Lions will need to focus on for a win. Michael will be able to provide a unique expert analysis from the perspective of a former player.

The show will also feature a player spotlight, features on Lettermen, and content highlighting the program’s NIL efforts to create the most comprehensive Penn State show in the state each and every week.

Nittany Insiders will air every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. starting Saturday, August 26th. The 30-minute shows will feature interviews and insight you can only see on abc27.

To sign up for the Nittany Insiders newsletter and other abc27 newsletters, fill out your email and hit the sign up button above.