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Q&A with Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson

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Alex Mayster

amayster@pfwmedia.com
Editorial assistant

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Posted Nov. 05, 2010 @ 1:16 p.m. ET
By Alex Mayster

Hall of Fame RB Eric Dickerson recently took the time to chat with Pro Football Weekly about everything from today's NFL to his glory days with the Los Angeles Rams.

The 50-year-old Dickerson saw his Rams all-time rushing record fall when RB Steven Jackson surpassed him in a 20-10 victory over the Panthers in Week Eight, but the legend was still in good spirits. Dickerson still holds both the NFL single-season rushing record (2,105 in 1984) and the rookie rushing record (1,808 in ’83).

Dickerson is enjoying his retirement and still follows the game closely. The legend has joined fellow Hall of Famer Steve Young, Van Heusen and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to take part in the second annual Fan's Choice campaign, which allows fans to cast their own votes for the players they believe should be in the Hall of Fame who aren't currently in the Hall. The top vote-getters will be invited to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, where the actual selection-committee voters will get to meet the players that the fans think should be enshrined.

PFW: Rams RB Steven Jackson recently surpassed your previous Rams record of 7,245 rushing yards, what are your thoughts on the sixth-year back, and what did it mean to you to see your record fall?

ED: I thought it was great. He's a very classy guy, great player. He's been on some bad teams and still been able to have really, really great numbers. I see him as a guy that deserves something, and Steven deserves that record. I give him credit as a player, I am most definitely happy for him.

PFW: One of the things Jackson did, as a tribute to you, was wear the goggles you made so popular during pregame warm-ups. What are your thoughts on that?

ED: I thought it was cool. I haven't seen a guy with the goggles on in a long time. That was my trademark. I hated those ugly goggles but I had to wear them because I couldn't see anything, they were prescription goggles. He paid me a tribute, so I did like it.

PFW: So, can you tell us a little bit about the Fan's Choice campaign you are involved with?

ED: It's FansChoice.com through Van Heusen. The fans get a chance to vote on who they think should be in the Hall of Fame. The votes really don't count, and I don't think the votes should count. I think what it does is it bring guys back that I think some of us have forgotten about. You know, you forget about certain guys that are not in the Hall of Fame. … Guys like Richard Dent, Charles Haley, Dexter Manley. Those were some great football players that I played against. I didn't have to block them but I knew how great they were. We had to game-plan against these guys every week, every time we did play them.

Another thing with FansChoice.com is that the (Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee members) get to see the guys that (the fans) chose during the week of the Super Bowl. So they actually get to see who the fans think should be in the Hall of Fame and (the committee) could see if they have any of those guys on their list. I think it's a good thing for the fans because it wouldn't be football without the fans.

PFW: You were able to make such an impact right off the bat, winning Rookie of the Year honors and setting a rookie rushing record that has held up to this day. How were you able to be so effective so soon?

ED: I was just on the right team. God put me on the right team at that time. I was hungry, I wanted to be great. That was my thing. I wanted to be a great football player. I was big and fast — I think people didn't realize how fast I was. (Rams head coach) John Robinson just did a great job of putting in an offense that really worked for me. We started off with a two-back set. We played two preseason games and after that Robinson said, 'forget everything you've learned, we're going to go to a one-back set' because the Redskins ran it with John Riggins. So he said 'we're going to a one-back set, and Eric, you're my back.' And from that point on that was it.

PFW: For the second season in a row, it looks like there won't be a rookie back to rush for more than 1,000 yards. How hard is it for a running back to make adjust from the college game to the NFL?

ED: It's the situation you're put in. It's hard because this game is so fast. The NFL is way different than anything in college. Certain guys are great college players and when they get to the pros, they don't do anything. And there are certain guys that are not good college players that for some reason they get better. And for what reason, who knows? … It's hard to stay healthy, it's hard to get the carries because a lot of teams are going to a two-back system.

PFW: What difference do you see in running backs now as compared to when you came into the league?

ED: Mostly a lot of two-backs. The backs aren't as big, they don't have featured backs. When I came into the league it was one-back (systems). It was myself. You had James Wilder down in Tampa, you had Gerald Riggs in Atlanta, Walter Payton in Chicago. You kind of knew who the back was. You don't see that a lot now.

PFW: One thing you don't see too often is a season with 2,000-plus yards. Can you talk about what that season was like for you and how you were able to set the NFL record?

ED: It takes a lot to get 2,000 yards. It takes a lot of luck. God has to be in that mix somewhere. Your team has to be behind you. You have to have a great offensive line. You have to get some breaks. The games can't get out of hand. You get down 20-0, well you can't run the football. Now if that happens a couple weeks in a row you kind of fall off. There's a lot that goes into having 2,000 yards, a lot of things have to go your way.

PFW: Do you see your single-season record being broken? And if so, who do you think would be the guy to do it?

ED: I think somebody will break it one day. I mean, I hope it's a long, long, long, long, time from now. Chris Johnson got close last year but personally I like Adrian Peterson. I would love to see Steven Jackson do it. Now that may never happen but it would be great if it was another Rams back. That would be the kicker for me.

PFW: You were one of those guys who switched teams a lot at the end of his career. Is that the way the NFL is going — no more staying with one team for an entire career?

ED: In my era, they wouldn't pay you. That's why I left the Rams, it was about money. I was making $300,000 and I was the top running back in the league. But that's just the change in times. Football is a business like any other, and that's what it's all about.

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