Throughout their high school football careers, Keyion Dixon of Glastonbury and Jasen Rose of Southington shared the same field about as many times as opponents can.
On Wednesday, they each signed a National Letter of Intent securing the reality of sharing a football field for four more years — but this time in the same uniform.
Bright and early in the media center of Glastonbury High School, Dixon signed along the dotted line, fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing football for the University of Connecticut.
“I chose the University of Connecticut, because when it comes to playing football I felt like I’ve never been at the top of my game,” Dixon said. “I can really achieve the goals that I want for myself and really feel good about playing football and really competing at the top of my game at the University of Connecticut.”
Later in the afternoon — in the same place he announced his much anticipated college choice a few months ago — Rose, the record-breaking Southington quarterback, had a ceremony making his decision binding.
“Today’s official,” Rose said. “Today I am officially a UConn Husky, it’s a surreal feeling. It’s hard to explain how I really feel, it’s definitely exciting. The excitement to overcome by body when I signed that letter was incredible.”
“It’s crazy to think that a few minutes ago I was still a Blue Knight, but now I’m a UConn Husky.”
Throughout the last four years, Southington and Glastonbury met on the gridiron six times — four regular season games and twice in the Class LL playoffs — but by the time Rose and Dixon became full-time players leading their respective teams, the rivalry became a must-see on football Friday’s in Connecticut.
In 2014, when the duo each took over their respective quarterback roles, the clash of CCC D-I titans took a jump up.
Rose took round one with a nail-biting 42-39 win on opening night despite a furious comeback back by Dixon and the Tomahawks.
They met again later in the 2014 Class LL semi-finals and again the Rose led high-flying offense dismantled Glastonbury — although Dixon ran for two touchdowns.
The final meeting was the most memorable.
Then No. 9 Glastonbury led No. 1 Southington after each of the first three quarters in a driving rain at Glastonbury High School. Dixon showed off his speed by running for 51 and 23 yard touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough. The 6-foot-4, 225 pound Rose was responsible for six Blue Knights scores — three rushing and three passing — and orchestrated a 27 point fourth quarter in the 61-41 win.
But it was that night in early October that UConn football fans really got to see what two of its prized in-state recruits would be bringing to Rentschler Field.
Dixon will transition to wide receiver at UConn and despite not having many reps at that position, Glastonbury coach Scott Daniels knows what attributes he has to ease the learning curve.
“He’s got a phenomenal skill set,” Daniels said. “He can run, he’s got great hands, he can make guys miss. So it’s just a matter of getting him the ball and having him make plays.”
And as for Rose, he will also require a position change.
When the Southington quarterback first made his verbal commitment to Connecticut he said a part of the decision was the possibility staying under center.
Well, in the weeks since that decision, UConn coach Bob Diaco has made it known to Rose that he has a much higher chance of early playing time if he moves to the tight end “F” position, which he describes as a ‘hybrid tight end, almost wide receiver position.’
“They let me know that I have a chance of seeing the field earlier than I would at quarterback,” Rose said. “That caught my eye, because I want to help the program as early as I can, as much as I can. So if that will get me on the field earlier, I’m going to take that opportunity.”
In the next couple of years, the once bitter CCC rivals could eventually be lining up next to one another in front of 40,000 people along with their families in East Hartford.
But rivals no more.
“It’s crazy to see that Keyion, he goes to the school that we’re arch rivals with and now he one of my good friends,” Rose said.
In fact, Dixon and Rose spoke with each other Wednesday afternoon, shortly before the latter made the signing official.
“We’re both excited,” Rose said. “We have the same thing on our mind just like the rest of this class and the rest of this team. Hopefully we can put that together and make a winning program.”
They already have some big game experience under their belt.
Rose was a member of two Class LL championship teams and played in seven state playoff games. Dixon played in the Class LL playoffs the last two years and played in front of thousands of people, but nothing like they are expecting in college.
“When you’re playing those big type of playoff games or big time games, you kind of learn who you are as a player,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “You learn how to battle through adversity and not give up in those situations.”
“That kind of lays your ground work for your foundation for the next level,” Drury said. “Because there’s going to be a lot more of those, the competitions going to be that much higher. Every week you’re going to have scholarship style players who you’re playing against, so you have to be totally dialed in.”
And a major part of the two staying in Connecticut was to know that their friends and family would be able to have a seat in the stadium and watch them play.
“Now my family can never have an excuse not to come see me play,” Dixon said. “It’s a bigger stadium and they love that kind of thing and it’s going to be fun for them knowing that their son finally did what he wanted to do in his life and is having fun doing it.”
“Growing up my family and friends, they were all there for me,” Rose said. “Playing football with me, watching me play football and in high school when it got serious they were all still there. They’ve opened up a lot of opportunities for me, so I want them to be there for the next four or five years when I’m experiencing all the opportunities they opened up for me.”
And of course the coaches who helped them along the way will make the trip to The Rent a few times.
“Absolutely,” Daniels said. “Can’t wait to go see him play, it will be great. We play on Friday’s and they play on Saturday’s and we get to go right down the road and it’s a matter of 10 minutes from our house, there’s no excuses there and it’s going to be exciting to see him play and represent our program and represent the state of Connecticut.”