Junior Armoni Dixon is an imposing presence on the basketball court as a 6-foot-3, 220-pound forward. He came off the bench Friday to help the Ramblers to the Class 4A Maine South Regional championship. They play Evanston on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals at Maine East. But football is what Dixon’s most known for at Loyola. In his first season as a starting linebacker, he was a disrupting force on the edge. He had 10 tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries, seven sacks and forced two fumbles for the Class 8A state runner-up Ramblers. A resident of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood and graduate of Joseph Brennemann School, Dixon already has nine offers from Division I football programs.
MAROON & GOLD: Let’s start with football because you visited University of Iowa after the basketball team’s 48-29 win over Maine South. How did your trip go?
ARMONI DIXON: It was pretty good. I toured the facilities and saw the stadium. I met and talked with the coaches about what they are looking for in a recruit. I got to try on the uniform. I think two-thirds of the state is dedicated to the university and all about the Hawkeyes. That’s cool.
M&G: You don’t have an offer from Iowa, but you have compiled an impressive list so far. Which programs have extended offers?
AD: My most recent one is from Brown. I also have offers fom Ball State, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, Syracuse, Ohio, Toledo, Kent State and Northern Illinois.
M&G: You have a big basketball game Tuesday. What was it like to contribute in a game that won a regional title?
AD: Great feeling. Maine South is a rival of ours, especially in football, and I think we had some anger about losing to them in the  state championship game. We had great preparation, and we were locked in. It was great to see a big crowd there for us. A lot of kids came out to cheer us on.
M&G: A broken left toe, an injury you suffered during the Class 8A state final against Lincoln-Way East, delayed the start to your basketball season. But you’ve earned minutes as of late. Describe your role on the team.
AD: Getting boards, doing the dirty work. I am a scrappy kind of guy, and I will do what the team needs done to win.
M&G: Pioneer Press published a story in November detailing your upbringing on Chicago’s North Side. It revealed that you were shot in a case of mistaken identity in the spring before you enrolled at Loyola. How did that affect your outlook on life?
AD: It really made me grow up and understand there are bad things that happen in this world. I matured a lot after that. It gave me a another level of reality. My neighborhood was full of crime, a lot of gun violence, and it’s not something you want to experience at a young age. I knew I wanted to get away from all of that drama and nonsense. It pushed me toward Loyola.
M&G: You’re on track for a full college scholarship. How have you handled all of the attention that comes with being a top recruit?
AD: I’m doing my best to not let it go to my head. I know I have to keep working and getting better. I’m trying to stay humble.
M&G: Given his football background as a linebacker at Illinois and in the NFL, has Loyola football head coach John Holecek been a good resource for you?
AD: He’s been a huge help to me and my family about what to do and what to expect. He’s been a go-to person for advice.
M&G: What are your strengths as a player?
AD: As an outside linebacker, I love to get after the quarterback. Pass rushing is my best suit. I love defeating the blocker to get to the prize.
M&G: How can you improve?
AD: Watching our captains James Joyce, Quinn Boyle, Marty Geary, Charlie Largay last season made me want to develop my leadership. I want to be a mentor to the younger players on our team. I want to help them as much as I can.
M&G: When did you first dream of playing college football?
AD: I think it formed my freshman year at Loyola, but I’ve wanted to play in the NFL since I was 8 years old. I thank God that I am working toward that goal. It’s a beautiful thing.
M&G: What are some of your interests outside of sports?
AD: I’m in the math club at Loyola, and I like to go fishing and snowboarding.