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Hixon excited about fresh start in Carolina

Posted May 23, 2013

CHARLOTTE – When Panthers wide receiver Domenik Hixon sat down to discuss his career, he knew the injuries would come up. He's used to that by now.

And while he wishes he didn't have to talk about his medical history as often as he does, he knows it's a part of his NFL journey.

"It's inevitable, you are going to get injured," Hixon said. "There aren't too many guys that have played eight years in the league that haven't been injured or needed some type of surgery."

Hixon's first major injury came during preparations for the 2006 NFL Draft when he broke his left foot during his pro day at Akron.

He was still drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos but spent the entire year on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Hixon played the first four games of his NFL career with the Broncos in 2007 before being waived. He was quickly picked up by the New York Giants and performed as the kick returner for the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Hixon earned a larger role in the offense in 2008, playing in all 16 games with seven starts. He finished with a career-high 43 receptions for a team-leading 596 yards and two touchdowns.

His offensive production dipped in 2009 (15 catches and 187 yards) as he was once again used as the team's kick returner, but Hixon felt poised to break out entering the 2010 season.

"I felt great. I had the offense down. I felt strong," Hixon recalled.

Then he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in minicamp. His season was over.

He returned to action in time for the start of the 2011 campaign and was determined to dedicate the season to his mother, Birgit, who had been diagnosed with cancer.

"I really wanted to play that year for my mom to take her mind off of the cancer," Hixon said.

He was off to a tremendous start. On Monday Night Football against the Rams in Week 2, Hixon made a spectacular, juggling catch in the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.

But he felt some discomfort.

Initially, Hixon thought he tweaked his right calf on the highlight-reel play. He later found out it was much worse.

He had torn his right ACL again. He was frustrated. But he never lost perspective.

"You do all that work for a year and then in a split second it's gone," Hixon said. "I looked to my mom for inspiration, because she is fighting for her life and I'm fighting to play football. That's two different scales. I wasn't going to sit there and complain about how bad things were for me."

Hixon's mother is "doing awesome" with her cancer treatment.

Her son, meanwhile, said he never felt star-crossed, never felt defeated by the recurring injuries. Instead, he just kept pushing himself to get healthy.

"It was a lot of adversity," Hixon said, "but it made me stronger coming out of it."

He once again emerged as a key contributor for the Giants in 2012. He played in 13 games behind star wideouts Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, recording 39 receptions for 567 yards and two touchdowns.

Hixon became an unrestricted free agent this offseason and ultimately decided to continue his career in Carolina.

"To me, the Panthers are a team that's going up and going up in a hurry," Hixon said. "There's so much talent here. I saw that on day one on the field."

And Hixon intends on helping the Panthers continue their upward trend. He's not sure exactly what role he'll play just yet or where he'll fit on special teams, but he's here to compete for a substantial role in the offense, all the while strengthening the Carolina receiving corps.

"Everyone strives to be no. 1 at their position. That helps your group get better," Hixon said. "Whatever role it is and whatever role helps the team win, I'll accept.

"Everyone wants to be a no. 1 receiver, but if you have to run down as a gunner or block on kickoff return, it's worth it to compete for that Super Bowl trophy."

After seven years with the Giants and two Super Bowls, Hixon is excited about his fresh start.

It's a new opportunity with a new team. He's healthy. The injuries that stifled his career are behind him.

So does he feel this is the time for him to show everyone what he always thought he was capable of?

"Yeah," Hixon said, smiling. "I think so."