Former Rams player Eric Dickerson bashes NFL, praises his 3 moms

By Kathryn Barnes

Rams player Eric Dickerson stretches his leg muscles on September 23, 1985. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

Eric Dickerson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a former running back for the LA Rams, thinks this may be the year his old team goes all the way. “I think we’re gonna make it,” he tells KCRW from his Calabasas home ahead of the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on January 30. 

Dickerson holds three NFL records: 2,105 rushing yards in a season, 1,808 rushing yards in a rookie season, and 248 rushing yards in a playoff game. His new memoir, “Watch My Smoke: the Eric Dickerson Story,” recounts the experiences he’s had on and off the football field, both good and bad.

Dickerson’s Hall of Fame career was often overshadowed by his contentious disputes with Rams management about his contract, which is detailed in his new memoir. Photo courtesy of Haymarket Books.

On his untraditional family: “That’s not your mom”

When Dickerson was 15 years old, he found out that the person he thought was his mother, Viola, was actually his great-great-aunt. A woman who lived next door that he thought was his sister, Helen, was actually his biological mother. Dickerson’s biological father, Richard Seal, was a running back at Prairie View College in Texas.

“My mother was 15 when she got pregnant,” he says. “She couldn't afford to take care of me.”

In a sense, Dickerson says, he was raised by three moms.

“It was like having my real grandmother, my real mother, but I had my adopted mother, Viola, which I called mama.”

Eric Dickerson is now 61 years old and lives in Calabasas. Photo courtesy of Wasserman.

On the NFL: “It's really messed up, how they treat the players”

Dickerson believes he suffers from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) from repeated blows to the head on the field.

“I’ve been tested, but you really can't find out till you die,” he says, and criticizes the NFL for not taking care of their players, especially retired players like himself who do not receive health care nor an adequate pension, in his eyes.

“Guys need health care. You need a pension you can be proud of,” he says. “The NFL gave me a life that I'm happy that I have. I thank God for it. But I just feel like it really is disrespectful, so disrespectful to the players that make the game great.”

Dickerson played college football for Southern Methodist University and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons. Photo courtesy of SMU/Wasserman.

He points out that the NBA and MLB have much better health care and pension plans.

“It's embarrassing when guys that I know who played baseball and basketball, and we talk about our contracts and they say, ‘Really, what?’ They’re shocked. Like, ‘What kind of union do y'all have?’ Well, our union is a bunch of crap,” he says.

On that song: “I told those guys this is a bad idea”

The LA Rams recorded a music video in 1986 that Dickerson still can’t bear to hear. “I told those guys, I said, ‘This is a bad idea.’ I swear I told them, ‘I can’t do this.’”

Yet there he is, in his #29 jersey, rapping about being the Rams’ “top gun,” liking brainy ladies, and how to ram it just right.

“Every time it would play, if I was white I’d turn red, let’s put it that way.”

Sorry, Mr. Dickerson, we have to share it.



  • Eric Dickerson - former player for LA Rams, author of “Watch My Smoke”