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Arts and Entertainment

Ten Minutes with Eric Dickerson

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There was nothing George Orwellian about Eric Dickerson. In 1984 as the city was coming off of the Olympics high, Dickerson gave the city something to root for as he broke OJ Simpson’s single-season rushing record going 2,105 yards in his second season in the NFL. Not Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis or Chris Johnson have surpassed that number.

Dickerson played for the Los Angeles Rams of Anaheim until 1987, but thanks to contract disputes he was shipped off to the Indianapolis Colts. In 1992 he was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders and in 1993 was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. Later in the 1993 season he was traded to the Green Bay Packers but retired after failing the physical.

In his first year of eligibility, Dickerson was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He gained 13,259 yards rushing and was a six-time Pro-Bowler. His number 27 was retired by the Rams, albeit in St. Louis.

Dickerson is a very gregarious guy who could talk on and on. Unfortunately I only had 10 minutes to talk to him thanks to FansChoice.com, the Van Heusen Pro Football Hall of Fame Fan’s Choice Campaign.

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LAist: So when will the NFL return to LA?

Eric Dickerson: That’s the million dollar question. I can’t tell you when it’s coming back, but I think it is coming back. And I think it’s about time. I think it went long enough without. I’ve always looked at LA like a bad kid. They had two balls - they had the Raiders and the Rams. You don’t want to play with the balls, but when someone else takes your balls, “Now I want my balls back - that’s my favorite ball.” I think it’s about time for them to have a team back.

Should it be in the city of LA? No I don’t think so. I think it should be outside the city. I think they’d get more fan support. As a player, believe me you want your fans to come to the game. You really want that. That’s what home field advantage is all about is your fans.

LAist: Did the fans help you achieve the single-season rushing record?

ED: The fans helped some, but the big part was the team. The offensive linemen wanted it. The whole team wanted it. They wanted the recognition of having that record of going over 2,000 yards. I was only the second player that did it at that time. OJ [Simpson] was the first, and he did it in 14 games. I did it in 15 games and had one game to go. That was a big part of playing with the Rams and Ram history for me.

LAist: Would you trade that for a Super Bowl ring?

ED: None of it. I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t do it. I love having the record we had. I think the Super Bowl, that’s a whole team thing. As a team I would love to have a Super Bowl. Also having that record is a team thing also. That’s just not for me. I look at that for my offensive linemen, my receivers, tight end, everything. I wouldn’t trade it.

LAist: Do you pull a Mercury Morris every year when running back after running back fail to break your record?

ED: Haha. No. I’m like anybody, you want your record to last as long as it possibly can, an individual record like that. I just feel like this. Chris Johnson, I think he’s a great player. But you don’t have to talk about being great. You don’t have to tell anybody I’m great. Let them tell you you’re great. You have to talk about I’m going to have 2,500 yards - just go out and do it. You don’t have to talk about it. Just go out and do it.

I didn’t go out and brag about that I had 1,800 yards in my first year and I should have gotten 2,000 next year, I for sure would have 2,000 yards. They asked me about it, and I said that I would like to have 2,000 yards. That it’s possible.

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I just feel like that today’s players are a little arrogant. One thing about football: Football is a humbling sport. It’s not about you. You can’t do anything on your own. You have to have other players involved. Playing running back it’s always like a chicken in the fox pen. You’re the chicken and all these foxes are chasing you.

LAist: How uplifting is it that the Rams seems to have started in the right direction?

ED: It makes me feel real good looking at my team trying to back. They’ve been really bad for the last four years. I mean horrific - almost like Raider-style horrific. It’s been disappointing, but this year has been an okay year. 4-4 is nothing to be over the top about, but they’re not in last place. They’re just a ½ game out. I know the division isn’t that strong, but the thing about football is that anything can happen. The year before the Rams won the Super Bowl they were 3-13. The next year they won the Super Bowl. That just goes to show you how fast you can have a turnaround with just a couple of players.

LAist: Going way back in your past, SMU has also started to turn things around since their death penalty.

ED: Golly, you’re talking about going way back. I’ll tell you a quick story. When I was in college it was my senior year. We played the University of Texas in Austin and we beat them 30-17. And a lot of our old alumni came in the locker room, and they were crying. Some of them were walking on walkers and crutches, and they were like, “I’ve been waiting 25 years to see this day,” or, “I’ve been waiting 30 year for this day to beat these Longhorns down here.”

I’ll never forget it. I said to my best friend at that time, still my best friend, “I hope this isn’t it us one day. We’ve been waiting 30 years to see our school win.” Lo and behold, I am that guy now. I am one of those old guys. We got the death penalty I have been waiting 20 years for my school to win. They finally went to a bowl game last year, I was so happy. I just hope they keep improving. I’m really proud of June Jones and my school.

LAist: So what’s this FansChoice.com?

ED: The fans get a chance to put in a vote on who they think should be in the Hall of Fame. And that’s good because I’m not a big fan of sportswriters having all of the vote on the Hall of Fame. I think Hall of Famers should have more of a say. But the Fan’s Choice gives you an idea of some guys, maybe you forgot about these guys. The guys [the fans] pick, the [Hall of Fame] committee sees the picks they have on Super Bowl week. They’ll have the picks the fans chose right in front of them, maybe a guy they forgot about. So it gives the sports writers a different look, and it gives the fans a voice on who should be in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a good thing because Fred Little was a guy that, I forgot how good Fred Little was! Seriously. He played for some really bad football teams. REALLY bad football teams. But as a player he was a great football player. The fans rallied, put his name out there. All of a sudden, we forgot about him. So I think it’s a great thing to have a website like FansChoice.com.