Eric Demetric Dickerson (born September 2, 1960) is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. Dickerson played college football for Southern Methodist University, and was recognized as an All-American. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. During his NFL career, he rushed for over 13,000 yards.
Dickerson committed to Texas A&M before reconsidering and decided amongst Oklahoma, Southern California and SMU before his grandmother talked him into staying in the state of Texas to attend Southern Methodist University because she liked SMU coach Ron Meyer. Dickerson was the subject of recruiting controversy when he started driving a new Pontiac Trans-Am during his senior year. At the time he said his grandmother from Mexico bought it for him.
Initially, Dickerson shared carries with Craig James and Charles Waggoner, all three blue-chip recruits in 1979. Waggoner was hurt returning a kickoff their freshman season, leaving Dickerson and James to lead SMU's running attack, called the "Pony Express." Dickerson gained 4,450 yards on 790 carries to break Earl Campbell’s Southwest Conference record for yards and attempts. His 48 career touchdowns tied Doak Walker’s SMU total for career scoring. In his senior year despite splitting time with James, Dickerson finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, behind Herschel Walker and John Elway. He was also a First-team All-American in 1982 and a Second-team All-American in 1981.
1983–1987: L.A. Rams era
While he considered going to the Los Angeles Express in the United States Football League, Dickerson decided to go into the National Football League. He was selected second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. An immediate success, he established rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing yards gained (1,808) and most touchdowns rushing (18), including another two receiving touchdowns. His efforts earned him All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.
In his second season, Dickerson continued his onslaught on the NFL record book becoming a member of the 2000 rushing yards club. Twelve times in 1984 he gained more than 100 yards rushing, breaking the record of 100-yard games in a season held by O.J. Simpson. His 2,105 total yards rushing beat Simpson’s 1973 NFL season record of 2,003 yards (Dickerson having reached 2,007 yards after 15 games), but since the NFL expanded the regular season from 14 to 16 games in 1978, Dickerson had the benefit of playing in two additional games. No one has since rushed for more yards in a single NFL season. Dickerson's 5.6 yards per carry led the Rams to a playoff berth in 1984.
Although he rushed for 1,234 yards in 1985 while missing the first two games while in a contract dispute, he missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his short NFL career. He did, however, go on to rush for a playoff record 248 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in post-season play.
1987–1991: Indianapolis Colts Era
1985 marked the beginning of on-going contract disputes between Dickerson and the Rams, and after playing just three games for the Rams during the strike-shortened 1987 season, Dickerson was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in one of the NFL's biggest trades ever, a three-way deal between the Rams, the Buffalo Bills and the Colts which saw the Rams receive RB Greg Bell, three 1st round picks, the Bills receive LB Cornelius Bennett and the Colts getting Dickerson. Although he played in just nine games with the Colts that year, he still managed to gain 1,011 yards to finish the season with 1,288. Also, he spearheaded a late season Colts run that helped the team to their first winning season (and first playoff berth) in 10 years.
In 1988, Dickerson, with 1,659 yards rushing, became the first Colt to lead the league in rushing since Alan Ameche in 1955. This would mark the apogee of Dickerson's career with the Colts (although he would gain 1,311 yards rushing in 1989). Also, 1989 was the year that he passed the 10,000 yard mark, and was the fastest player ever to do so (91 games), accomplishing the feat faster than greats like Jim Brown (98 games), Barry Sanders (103 games), Emmitt Smith (106 games), and LaDainian Tomlinson (106 games). By 1989, he had set a new NFL record with seven straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing, and led the league for four of those seasons.
However, injuries, further contract disputes, and suspensions clouded his final 2 seasons with the Colts. Dickerson, at 29, was the highest paid running back in the NFL, receiving an annual reported salary of id="mce_marker".4 million. Following prolonged contract disputes, the fed-up Colts placed him on the inactive list before the start of the 1990 season where he stayed for 7 weeks and lost more than $600,000 in salary. In his sixth game back from suspension, Eric blasted the Bengals defense with 143 yards on 22 attempts - this effort lifted him past Jim Brown to third place on the NFL career rushing list behind Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett. But 1991 was to be dismal and Eric's last year as a Colt. He was again suspended, this time for three games, and amidst injuries and age, managed to run for only 536 yards. The abysmal Colts finished the year bottoming out with a 1–15 record.
1992–1993: The Final Years
On April 26, 1992, Dickerson was traded by the Colts to the Los Angeles Raiders for their fourth and eighth round picks in the 1992 draft. There were occasional flashes of greatness—107 yards against the Broncos, 103 against the Chargers, where he recorded his 63rd and 64th career 100 yard games—but those would unfortunately be his last. Dickerson also scored on a 40 yard TD run, reminiscent of his prime, in front of a nationally televised Monday Night audience in a game against Kansas City. That year he led the team in rushing attempts and yards.
The following season, Dickerson was traded to the Atlanta Falcons on July 7, 1993 for a sixth round draft pick. He played in a backup role, making his final national televised appearance during the Monday Night Football game on September 27, 1993 when the Falcons hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in a losing effort. The Falcons traded Dickerson and third-year cornerback Bruce Pickens to the Green Bay Packers for running back John Stephens on October 13, 1993.
The trade came a week after Dickerson said he had been told that the Falcons were waiving him because Coach Jerry Glanville wanted to use younger players. The next day, Falcons officials said that there had been a misunderstanding and that Dickerson had not been placed on waivers. Dickerson retired as the 2nd leading rusher of all-time after failing a physical with the Packers.
Career rushing statistics
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Dickerson became the seventh back to gain more than 10,000 yards and the fastest ever to do so, reaching the milestone in just 91 games. During his 11-year career, Dickerson gained 13,259 yards rushing, which was second all-time at the time of his retirement, and rushed for 90 touchdowns. He gained another 2,137 yards and 6 touchdowns on 281 pass receptions. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Dickerson was All-Pro in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988. In 1999, his first year of eligibility, Eric Dickerson was selected to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also in 1999, he was ranked number 38 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The following year, he provided on-field commentary during Monday Night Football broadcasts.
The Rams number 29 has been retired.
After pro football
In 1999, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During the 2007 football season, Dickerson worked as a broadcaster for KCBS television in Los Angeles, providing commentary for NFL pregame and postgame shows. He recently started a sports memorabilia company, with former Los Angeles Rams teammate LeRoy Irvin, called Original Mini Jerseys. The company received their NFL license in 2006 and sells authentic miniature replica jerseys.