SI Vault
Jill Lieber
November 28, 1988
The Indianapolis Colts' equipment staff keeps a three-ring notebook filled with pages of details about players' uniforms. Everything from the length of inseams to the thickness of neck rolls is recorded. The page on outside linebacker Duane Bickett is caked with white correction fluid. No other Colt is as finicky about his gear as Bickett. "He's a nightmare," says Dave Hicks, a part-time Indianapolis equipment assistant.
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November 28, 1988

Dressed For Success In Indy

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He's quick to mimic characters from his two favorite movies, Scarface and Raising Arizona; for no apparent reason, he'll do Al Pacino right in the middle of a dinner conversation. He claims to have seen Scarface almost 50 times and Raising Arizona 25. After frequent exposure to Bickett's Pacino impression, the Colts' equipment staff wrote the actor. Pacino sent back an autographed Scarface poster, which hangs in the training room.

Shielded by this off-the-wall behavior is the shy loner Bickett. He'll curl up for hours on his couch reading tales of knights, dragons and sorcerers—things like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. "Bold heroes," he says. "Good versus evil. Underdogs struggling to come out on top. Physical prowess prevails. What a wonderful escape."

He often eats dinner by himself during the season, stopping by Russ's Lounge twice a week for an $8.95 sirloin steak. Bickett hates the bar scene. "I'm not a carouser," he says. "I've never met a girl I've liked in a bar. I don't have many friends in Indy. Outside of the team, I don't really know anybody here my own age."

His friends remain the gang from Glendale, some of whom he has known since elementary school. Six years ago Bickett took Mary Mudie to her Glendale High prom. Now she is a TWA flight attendant and wears around her neck the first AFC Defensive Player of the Week pin Bickett was given by the Colts. "In Indianapolis people say, 'Oh, Duane Bickett. The Colts' linebacker,' " says Bickett. "I'm seldom anything more than that. In Glendale I'm just Duane—first and last."

Bickett works as a volunteer counselor at the Glendale YMCA youth camp every spring, funds two scholarships for graduates of Glendale High—$500 each to a girl and boy who maintained at least a 3.0 average and excelled in two sports—and has given some $33,000 to Noble Center, Inc., an agency that assists retarded citizens in Indianapolis (at the rate of $500 per interception and $100 a tackle for every tackle over 30). The second of four boys, he's also a dutiful son. His parents, Walt and Gay, moved to Sydney, Australia, in January 1985, when his father was named managing director of Auscott, a cotton producing concern. Bickett talks to his parents once a week.

"One time, when I really needed to talk, I called at 4 a.m., Australian time," he says. "My Mom said, 'Do you know what time it is? I won't wake your father.' She then proceeded to talk to me for an hour."

Bickett journeys Down Under every February. In addition to seeing Mom and Dad, he visits his older brother Don, 27, who lives south of Sydney in Wollongong. Don is a 6'6" starting forward for the Illawara Hawks, an Australian pro basketball team.

Only those who are close to Bickett know he often questions his football ability. He can't quite fathom the $4.5 million, four-year contract extension he signed before this season. He'll earn $1 million this year, which will make him the second-highest-paid defensive player in the league, behind Marshall. Even after appearing in the Pro Bowl, Bickett won't give himself a break.

"I don't think of myself as a great player," he says. "I'm surprised other people in the league consider me to be that good. When I signed my original contract, I had incentives put in for All-AFC and All-NFL, but I never thought I'd ever see any of that money. And I never ever thought I'd make the Pro Bowl. I remember my reaction when Andre Tippett walked onto the field at Aloha Stadium for our first Pro Bowl practice. I thought, Jeez, he looks like a great linebacker. Hey, he even looks better than me in a uniform."

Perhaps Bickett the perfectionist will someday appreciate Bickett the man he sees in the mirror on game days. "I used to think money motivated me," he says. "But I have a new contract, and I'm still not happy. I want to be looked upon as a good player—as a great player—and I'll do whatever it takes. I'll probably never think I'm good enough or achieve all of my goals. You know, long after I've retired, I'll probably still laugh whenever somebody refers to me as All-Pro."

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