By Emmakate Few
SMU and NFL football legend Eric Dickerson returned to campus Oct. 27 for the third annual Eric Dickerson Foundation All-Star Kids Football camp Saturday at Gerald Ford Stadium.
Teammates from SMU’s legendary “Pony Express” era of 1980-1982 teamed up to coach approximately 200 of Dallas’s young athletes. Campers were led through a series of drills, inspirational huddles. Each received a T-shirt upon check-in. These campers, largely from Dallas’s inner-city schools, gained the unique experience of playing football on SMU turf under Dickerson’s valued leadership.
“The most important thing about today is letting the kids have fun,” Dickerson said. “Many of them have never been on a college football field or had the opportunity to meet former players like myself, you know, us ‘old guys.’ At this age, we aren’t going to focus on having them out here tackling. It’s more about them having a good time.”
Dickerson, an essential component of the Pony Express backfield, played at SMU 1979-1982. He was selected second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams and later earned All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors. He became a member of the 2000-yard rushing club in his second NFL season. No one has since rushed for more yards in a single NFL season. Dickerson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Other former SMU Football players from the Pony Express era served as coaches at the camp and were recognized at halftime of the SMU vs. Tulsa game Friday evening, Oct. 27.
A close friend of Eric Dickerson during their three years playing together at SMU, Michael Carter, was volunteering for the second-time as a coach for the kids’ camp. He was drafted to the Los Angeles Raiders following his time at SMU and has maintained a close relationship with Dickerson ever since.
“Eric does a lot for the community and giving back. Former teammates want to help him out in giving back and raising awareness for these kids and physical activity,” Carter said. “Lets get them off the couch and put in some work.”
While many years have passed since sharing the conference titles and national prominence, the teammates of SMU Football’s legendary “Pony Express” still show great camaraderie. Last year, Dickerson even hosted a large group dinner for around 30 former teammates before the event.
The 2017 Eric Dickerson Foundation All-Star Football camp was a partnership between the Eric Dickerson Foundation, SMU Dads’ Club and SMU Athletics. SMU Dads’ Club president Clint Tomlinson teamed up with Dickerson a few years ago to create this event to teach football and life skills to young athletes from the Dallas inner-city area. SMU alumni as well as different organizations in the Dallas area have the opportunity to sponsor the event in a effort to give more inner-city kids the opportunity.
The enthusiasm was contagious from the young athletes in attendance. A group of NFL-aspiring 12-year old athletes were ecstatic to kick field goals with Dickerson. Excited shouts ranging from “He’s here and he’s famous” to “He’s my hero” could be heard from the group huddle.
The Eric Dickerson Foundation works to develop the nation’s youth by providing positive influences through youth sports, education and leadership. The Foundation works to build community partnerships with other non-profit organizations and schools.
“Its good to see these kids out here having a good time. That’s what today is all about,” Dickerson said.