He was also recently inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. In his only Cotton Bowl performance Dickerson—who played at SMU from 1979-1982—ran for 124 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh in a 7-3 win in the '72 Cotton Bowl. He was a two-time All-American and he broke Earl Campbell's Southwest Conference rushing record with 4,450 yards.
What's missing from Dickerson's illustrious resume is an induction into the college football hall of fame. This is of no fault of Dickerson but only of the sanctioning bodies at the NCAA. SMU's "Death Penalty" has been well documented. In 1981, the NCAA put SMU on probations for 29 recruiting penalties and in 1987, the school was ordered to cancel its season and limit their football schedule to road games a year later.
This isn't a column about throwing shade at the NCAA so if you resent Dickerson or don't know how good he was, look no further.
A running back's shelf life is short but of course Dickerson was the exception. In each of his four years at SMU, his yards per carry improved. His sophomore and junior year, he averaged 5.3 and 5.6 YPG. By his senior year, he surpassed that with 7.0 YPG followed by 17 TD's and ran for 1,677 yards. His college career totals were 48 TD's and over 4,400 yards on 790 carries.
In that 1982 season, he was voted third for the Heisman trophy behind John Elway and Herschel Walker. Nothing to sneeze at there.
Numbers will tell you Dickerson was good but not necessarily why. In this cheesy '80s VHS, Dickerson tried explaining the basics of playing running back. For one, his coaches must have shrugged at how often Dickerson lost the football. In his first two seasons with the Rams, he fumbled the ball 27 times. In his rookie year, he ran for 18 TD's and 1,808 yards.
SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber joked that it was impossible for Dickerson to teach anyone how to play running back.
"Eric Dickerson cannot teach you how to run the ball like he does. He doesn't even try to in this '80s instructional video. He just covers that checklist of the little things: holding the ball, carrying it, taking a pitch, so on. Anyway, none of that stuff is what you remember about Dickerson."
The Cotton Bowl hall of fame is probably as good as it gets for Dickerson's college recognition. Dickerson isn't likely to make peace with him being snubbed from the college football hall of fame. He took at shot at his alma mater and called the NCAA "a bunch of crooks" before his induction speech.
He has every right to dwell on those past scandals.
But for now, at least we have another way to recognize the man who ran the football with a jheri curl and the rec specs.