That dream ended, but death and Dickerson still do not get along. He worries about people trying to kill him. He keeps a gun by his bed and two slightly underfed rottweilers in his house. He worries about the day when the woman he calls his mom—she's actually his great-aunt Viola—will die, even though she's in the cream of health at 85. "I know I'll be depressed when it happens," says Dickerson. "I don't know what kind of person I'll be then."
He worries about getting hurt. He spends a couple of hours before every game steeling himself for the first hit. "For the first few plays, there's a lot of fear," he says. When he was with the Rams, he refused to run certain pass patterns because he thought they were splints waiting to happen. With the Colts, he won't run shovel-pass plays because it means he must have his head turned while running amid 280-pound linemen who are not hoping he has a nice day. "Nuh-uh," says Dickerson. "Not for me."
He worries so much that he gets headaches, which is one reason he's looking forward to turning in his washroom key. Viola is looking forward to it too. "Don't you think you've made enough money?" she asks him. "I don't want to see you a cripple."
Maybe it's the insomnia or the loss, but Dick is starting to see her point. "People think it should be an honor to run in the NFL," he says. "Hell, it's no honor. It's an honor to be alive. To have two legs that work, two eyes that work."
In fact, the only honor Dickerson wants from playing in the NFL is a paid-off home. He has $500,000 to go on the Malibu house. "If I get it paid off, oh, my days playing football will be over. I'm serious."
Excuse us, but what about Payton's record? What about the Super Bowl? What about your place in history? "I already have a place in history," he says. "The Payton record is no big deal to me. There's more to life than getting 16,000 yards. Viola doesn't care about the record. She'd love me if I mopped floors. I used to really worry that I might never make the Super Bowl. Now I don't. If I don't get to one, I don't get to one."
The weird thing is, he looks as if he means it.
SEE DICK KILL
Sixteen hours after the Denver game. Two days off in Los Angeles. Time to blow somebody away. Dickerson has got a Gary Cooper look on his face. There's a loaded six-gun in his holster and a quiver in his trigger finger. In a fly's sneeze, he whips out the pistol with his right hand, fans the hammer with his left and blows a hole the size of Hoss Cartwright's hat in his agent and housemate, Daryl Henry.
Henry is unfazed. He continues to talk on the phone, despite the ringing in his ears. The mock six-gun was a gift from a Hollywood stunt man. Dickerson has two, so he and whoever wants to play Liberty Valance can duel all they want. Dick doesn't like to lose at Gunsmoke or anything else. His nostrils flare anytime he loses at anything.