They didn’t have tickets, but they had faith.
Now, Roy Dixon Jr., Shawn Taylor and Jimmy Messick have a story that will last as long as the University of Alabama plays football.
As many people now know, the three rabid fans left Phenix City last week without tickets and drove to Pasadena for the national championship game.
While they were headed west, their story reached Ledger-Enquirer readers and then sports talk radio host Paul Finebaum and finally former Tide All-American Bob Baumhower, who offered them his four tickets for nothing.
Suddenly, the three buddies had four tickets — two near the 50-yard line, and two in the corner of the end zone. How would they split them up?
Football and family
Their wives — Joy Dixon, Vonda Messick and Lorrie Taylor — had encouraged the three men to go.
“I never really thought they would go through with it,” Joy Dixon said.
But she also thought the long road trip would be cathartic for her husband, who’d lost his older brother, Mike, to cancer in August.
“I am thankful God has given him two good friends to step in,” she said.
Before he died, Mike Dixon had gained strength from a friendship with former Alabama running back Siran Stacy, who had lost his wife and four of his children in a South Alabama car accident two years ago.
“My brother had called him a few times during his struggles,” Dixon said. “Siran had encouraged him.”
Because the tickets were a gift, selling them was out of the question. Dixon thought of Breck Moffett, an Alabama fan from Mableton, Ga., with whom he’d struck up a friendship on an Crimson Tide fan site, Tider Insider.
Moffett was introduced to Alabama football by his late father, and he too had made the long trek to Pasadena without a ticket.
Dixon met him outside the Rose Bowl and gave Moffett the ticket.
“Seeing his face was one of the great experiences of the trip,” Dixon said. “He was so happy he was shaking.”
Dixon thought of his brother and Moffett thought of his father.
“We both think they may have had something to do with us getting tickets,” Moffett said.
Best seats in the house
Moffett switched tickets with Craig Howard, another Phenix City man who had a single ticket, and Howard joined Taylor in the end zone while Dixon and Messick headed to the big-money seats.
The plan was to switch at the half.
Halfway up the bowl between the 45 and 50 yard lines, the jeans and T-shirt-clad Dixon and Messick noticed that everybody around them was wearing sport coats and ties.
Their seats were closer to the 50 than two of the most powerful men in Alabama — Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.
They sat next to a man who told them he had donated $500,000 to the university and made an annual donation of $38,000 to secure his seats.
At one point, he shook Messick’s hand.
It was a $100 handshake. He told Messick and Dixon to get a nice meal on the way home.
Dixon still can’t believe those seats.
“The only way they could have been better is if I was standing on the sideline next to Nick (Saban) and Kirby Smart helping them call the game,” he said.
“You had a stadium of almost 100,000 people and I could have gone in there the day before and picked my seat, and that’s the one I would have picked.”
Surprise in the end zone
When Taylor got to his seat in the end zone, he felt someone slap him across the back of the head with a cap.
He turned around and it was Siran Stacy, the running back who’d encouraged Mike Dixon and who’d gotten to know Taylor while speaking at Golden Acres Baptist Church.
“What’s up Taylor?” Stacy said.
Shortly after the game started, Taylor sent Dixon and Messick a text message saying to forget about the halftime switch.
“When Marcell Dareus made the interception and scored right before the half, he was running right toward me,” he said.
The three friends arrived in Phenix City about 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. They’d spent more than 64 hours and 4,420 miles in an SUV without so much as a cross word.
“I know I will see my brother again, eternally,” Dixon said. “But here in the flesh, I have gained so many other brothers.”
They slept Sunday morning, but that night made it to Golden Acres Baptist, which was kicking off its revival week.
After all, a trip that starts on faith must end there.