By Chip Swain, Co-Producer
EDITOR’S NOTE: This Friday, October 10 at 9pm/ET, “Eric Dickerson: A Football Life” premieres on NFL Network.
It was May. I flew to Texas to meet Eric Dickerson for the first time. We had spoken briefly on the phone when we were making our pitch to him. I wanted to do “A Football Life” about him. I am a child of the 80s and I loved Dickerson. Certain memories of watching football as a kid always jump out. Dan Fouts’ beard, Lester Hayes’ stickum, but there was nothing like Eric Dickerson’s helmet. Under it were Dickerson’s trademark goggles and iconic hairstyle. But the helmet. No one had a helmet like the Rams. And no Ram had one like Dickerson’s. The two side bars on the facemask. The mouthpiece. His look was all his own.
So here I am, minutes after meeting Eric for the first time. He’s about to take us on a driving tour of hometown of Sealy, but first needs to change. I am left alone. Casually observing all of his collected memorabilia. Trophies. Photos. An SMU mini helmet. And there among the treasures from a lifetime in football is the helmet. Eric Dickerson’s original Rams helmet. Just sitting there. Mouthpiece still attached. As if it were waiting to be strapped on again, for one more ride.
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Dickerson’s record setting season. After 5 games, DeMarco Murray is on pace to break it. On pace. I will be rooting for him to get close, if only so those that do not know who Eric Dickerson is will take the time to watch this show, revel at how great a runner he was and appreciate his feats. While active, he was regarded as “a bad guy” because he was considered selfish. He wanted to be compensated fairly and made it known to his employers and the fans. I remember watching him. He may have been the best ever. But that helmet. It shielded him from the blows he took on the field, but it could not protect him from the negative image he got off it. His public contract disputes allowed fans to disregard him as one of the best ever even though he retired as the second leading rusher of all time.
I am glad I got to meet the man under that helmet. Laid back and humble. Genuine. Hardly selfish. Not what I was expecting, given all I knew about him prior to our meeting. Goes to show, I didn’t know much. Hopefully, after watching, you will know more about the man behind that famous look.
“Eric Dickerson: A Football Life” was co-produced by Chip Swain and Bennett Viseltear. The film premieres Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at 9pm/ET only the NFL Network.