Published September 15, 2012
A Connecticut community is mourning the accidental shooting death of a 22-year-old former West Point football player, whose life story, friends say, was extraordinary.
Marcus Dixon was once a homeless young teenager who made a "180-degree turn" when a family in Stamford, Conn., adopted him at age 17, the Connecticut Post reported. He went on to become the football captain at Stamford High School -- where he graduated from in 2009 -- before making it to West Point.
Dixon died shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday when he accidentally shot himself in the head with his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, according to local reports. Dixon was showing his gun to two friends at an apartment in Stamford at the time of the incident. He had removed the magazine from the pistol and, thinking it was empty, tried to show the gun was safe by pointing it toward his head and pulling the trigger, the newspaper reported. One round was hidden in the gun's chamber.
"I have him in mind when I talk to the kids and tell them that they can achieve what ever they want no matter where they come from," Stamford High School Head Coach Bryan Hocter told the newspaper. "He came from nothing and what he achieved in his life was remarkable."
Dixon used the name Marcus McInerney while at West Point, but did not play any games, according to the Connecticut Post. He reportedly opted out of the football program last year so that he could focus on academics.
Hocter told the newspaper that he last saw Dixon in July at the Stamford Government Center, where the young man was taking an exam to become a police officer.
"He was dressed really nicely, and spoke very well," Hocter told the newspaper. "I told him that I did not recognize him. He said, `Coach, I have grown up and come a long way."
"Marcus had a lot of rough spots in his life and did not have it easy growing up," former Stamford High School football coach Kevin Jones told The Stamford Advocate. "When he came to us there were a lot of things that we needed to address that had nothing to do with football, but we used football as a way to deal with them. The turnaround that kid made is probably the greatest I have ever seen in my 20 years of coaching."