Dickerson was first star running back at Pearland
Anthony “Champ” Dickerson, a former Pearland High School and Dallas Cowboys football player, has died at age 61.
Dickerson, who was born June 9, 1957 in Texas City, passed away last Thursday following injuries he received from a fall at his home.
Dickerson starred as a three-year starter at running back and linebacker while at Pearland. His successful career in Dallas included three trips to the NFC title game.
After attending Henderson County Junior College, Dickerson transferred to Southern Methodist University.
He was a co-captain at SMU, and in one game, recorded 32 tackles against Ohio State.
Dickerson’s professional career began in 1978 when he was signed but waived by the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. One year later, Dickerson played 10 games for the Calgary Stampeders before being released.
Following a job as a maintenance department store clerk in a Burbank, Calif., airport, Dickerson moved to Houston and was taking business courses at the University of Houston when Dallas signed him as an undrafted free agent in 1980.
In his first season, Dickerson replaced Cowboys linebacker D.D. Lewis on passing downs because of his superior speed. That year, Dickerson was named the Cowboys’ special teams player of the year.
He had two interceptions against San Francisco and caused two fumbles against Seattle. He also intercepted a pass against Philadelphia in the NFC title game.
In 1981, Dickerson recorded 39 tackles, four sacks and two fumble recoveries. His first-half fumble recovery against Philadelphia was instrumental in Dallas winning the NFC East division title.
After a successful 1982 campaign, Dickerson was named the weak side starting linebacker for the Cowboys.
He had 114 tackles that season, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Dickerson also recorded 10.5 sacks, which was the most by a Dallas linebacker until 2006.
His sack of Ken Stabler in the end zone with 1:58 remaining gave Dallas a 21-20 win over New Orleans in 1983.
In 1984, he experienced modest success with the Cowboys, who then traded him to the Buffalo Bills in 1985 where he played on special teams.
Dickerson signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 1986 but was released.
Dickerson was part of a Pearland backfield which featured quarterback Ricky Churchman, who went on to star for the University of Texas in the secondary, and who also enjoyed a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
“We even played against each other once in the NFL out in San Francisco,” Dickerson told the Pearland Journal in 2010. “Actually, I think Ricky might have been injured that game and didn’t play, but we did get to see each other.”
At 6-2 and 195 pounds, Dickerson was a difficult man to bring down in high school. He wore No. 44 for the Oilers, a tribute to his idol, Leroy Kelly of the Cleveland Browns.
Following his NFL career, Dickerson moved to Houston and was a truck driver.
He helped contribute to a book “The Unbroken Line” by former teammate Billy Joe Dupree and attorney Spencer Kopf about the NFL’s poor pension plans, inadequate medical benefits and the greed of union leadership.
“I was asked to contribute a couple of chapters to that book since I sat in on every meeting during that strike season (1982),” Dickerson said in 2010.
“My rookie season, my starting salary was $28,500 with a $500 signing bonus. I tell people I make more money now - which I do - driving a truck. I played football because I loved the game.”
A memorial service for Dickerson will be held at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 31 at The Chapel at McCoy and Harrison’s Funeral Home, 4918 Martin Luther King Boulevard, Houston.
A celebration of life will follow at 3 p.m., at Billy Griffin’s Hall in Pearland.