TAMPA, Fla. -- Every time Ron Dixon visits his hometown of Wildwood, about 80 miles north of this year's Super Bowl city, he makes sure to stop by the Speedway gas station.
While pumping fuel into his Cadillac Escalade, the Giants receiver takes a long look around the place that helped him turn his life around.
Then it really hits him.
"I am living a dream," he says.
Dixon is planning to document his thoughts in a book appropriately titled "From the Toilet Bowl to the Super Bowl." He struggled to make it through college and, at times, has struggled in his first season in the NFL. Still, the Giants have high expectations - in the Super Bowl and in the future - for their 24-year-old rookie.
"Everybody has their struggles, but Ron's are a little bit unusual," teammate and close friend Brandon Short said. "Most guys in this situation would have given up, would have thrown in the towel. But he persevered, he kept fighting on his goal to one day be in the NFL. And now he's returning kicks for touchdowns in the playoffs and he's in the Super Bowl.
"It's amazing. I'm proud of him."
Even though Dixon, a highly touted recruit at Wildwood High, was offered scholarships in 1993 to Florida, Florida State, Miami, Penn State, Southern California and Tennessee, he didn't have the test scores to play at any of the four-year universities.
He spent the next six years bouncing in and out of smaller schools. He played two years at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College, then briefly attended West Georgia before ending up back home for two years because of poor grades.
Living with his parents, he was forced to work.
"My mom got tired of just giving me money," Dixon said.
He found a job at the gas station, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors and picking up trash. Unhappy and unfulfilled, Dixon took jotted down a list of what he wanted to accomplish. It was more or less a to-do list for his life.
Playing in the NFL was at the top, and nothing on the list had to do with where he was at the moment. So he enrolled at Lambuth University, an NAIA school in Tennessee.
"Things happen for a reason, and you have to learn from them," Dixon said.
He did. Dixon excelled at Lambuth, and the Giants drafted him in the third round last April.
Still, his rocky road continued.
He overslept for New York's walkthrough the day before the first game of the season. Coach Jim Fassel gave him a warning.
But Dixon did it again in December before the Pittsburgh game. This time, Fassel suspended him without pay for the game.
"Sitting at home watching my team play, that was more of a wake-up call than taking the check out of my pocket," Dixon said.
After a long talk with Fassel, Dixon decided to get help. Since the second incident, he bought an extra alarm clock just in case the first one doesn't work, his parents call him every morning and so does Short.
"When you wake up in the morning with that many bells and whistles, you're ready," Fassel said. "It's not going to happen again. I said, 'You had your chance.' So he's followed through with that and I'm proud of him."
Dixon hasn't been late since.
He even played a big role in getting the Giants to the Super Bowl. Against Philadelphia, he returned the game's opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The following week against Minnesota, Dixon caught two passes for 62 yards, including a 43-yarder that set up a touchdown.
"He always had the talent, but now it's about getting out there and showing the world," Short said. "Everyone will see."
His experiences, combined with the team's recent success, have inspired Dixon to write the book.
With his career still on the rise, he could write a sequel. If so, it certainly would include more stories from the gas station.
"I stop there every time I'm home," he said. "I don't dwell in the past, but it really reminds me of how far I've come and how close I came to missing it all."