One hopes for Dickey's—and America's—sake that the fortune cookie's prophecy comes true. It would be nice if he could charm whatever pro team that drafts him into letting him give the Olympics his best shot. It would mean delaying all contract-signing and reporting to football practice late and not in running-back shape; it would also mean risking a hamstring or some other injury. Dickey will represent a major financial investment for a pro team, and if it is a losing team—a strong possibility because he will be selected so early in the draft—he may mean a lot more to it than his salary.
When he is asked if the Olympics are important enough to him that he would take a stand over them, would announce to his pro coaches that he intends to try to make the Olympic team with or without their approval, Dickey hesitates. He just doesn't know, he says. He's never thought about it. The thought of doing what he wants to do, against the wishes of his coaches, is foreign to him. But imagine this scenario, which is not all that far-fetched: Dickey gels drafted and it is made clear to him the team values him more as a healthy running back than as a gold medalist. Dickey proves his character to the team by doing what it wants him to do. But he gets injured in his first-season and never develops into the rugged rusher he's expected lo become. Whatever he does from that day on he will do without the memory of that "once-in-a-lifetime thing," representing his country, his hometown—which means so much lo him—in the Olympics.
"The NFL is very image-conscious," says Brandt. "I really don't think any team would risk bad publicity by refusing Curtis the chance to run in the Olympics."
True, but it is unlikely that the matter will ever become the subject of public debate. If his team doesn't want Dickey to run, it would be suggested quietly to him that he lose interest in the Olympics. And Dickey takes direction well.
"I think anybody who's got a talent like Curtis does should make the most of it," says Wilson. "I'd like lo see him run in the Olympics. Anyone who's seen him run would like to see him do it."
Wilson is asked: If you were the coach of, say, the Cowboys and had just drafted Dickey, would you allow him to run in the Olympics? He laughs. "Probably not," he replies. "That's a different thing altogether."
At this moment, more than Dickey's body is vulnerable. So is his future. He has never really had to determine it for himself; that has been done for him by men who have been fond of him and meant him well, but who had neither the time nor the background lo fully prepare Dickey to make the decisions he has ahead of him. There will be similar men in the pros, but the stakes will be very much higher than ever before. The real world will be another step closer.