From 1979 through 1982, SMU fans were given the opportunity to watch one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game of football, Eric Dickerson. Fans could not help but notice the ease with which he ran. He glided across the field as if a gazelle running through an open plain. He had remarkable acceleration that allowed him to get through the slightest crack in an opponent's line. He was instant offense, a touchdown waiting to happen. And in the 1982 season finale against Arkansas, Dickerson eclipsed Earl Campbell as the Southwest Conference's all-time leading rusher in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
By his senior year at Sealy High School, Dickerson was a Texas high school football legend. In the state high school football title game, he gained a record 311 yards rushing, and the attention of nearly every major college recruiter. Parade Magazine named him the number one high school running back in the nation in 1978. Upon the advice of his great-great aunt, Viola Dickerson, the woman he lovingly referred to as "momma", Dickerson chose to attend SMU. Over the next four years, he became a record breaking player that took the Mustangs to new heights.
Heading into the Arkansas game, Dickerson trailed Earl Campbell for the all-time SWC record by 74 yards. Campbell had rushed for 4,443 yards from 1974 to 1977. Against Arkansas, Dickerson carried the ball 18 times for 81 yards. He became the new record holder with 4,450 yards. He accomplished this feat while sharing the ball-carrying duties with the other half of the Pony Express, Craig James.
The 6-3, 217 pound Dickerson was named to ever All-America team. He finished third in the Heisman voting behind Herschel Walker and John Elway. He was named Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second time. He also led the league in rushing and scoring for the second year in a row. In his time at SMU, he set virtually every SMU rushing record for career, season, and single game.
Dickerson rushed for 1,617 yards in 1982, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He finished third in the NCAA in rushing with a per game average of 147 yards a game. He finished tied with Doak Walker as SMU's leading career scorer with 288 points. For his career, he posted 28 100-yard rushing performances, twelve more than the closest player. He also set the school mark with 790 career attempts, proving he could be a workhorse.
Dickerson went on to become the second player selected in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He went on to establish rookie records for most rushing attempts with 390, most rushing yards with 1,808 and most touchdowns rushing with 18. He earned All-Pro honors, was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, and was named the NFC's Most Valuable Player by The Sporting News and the United Press International. In his second pro-season, he set the NFL single season rushing mark with 2,105 yards.
Eric Dickerson proved to the football world that he was one of the greatest running backs in history. Former coach Bobby Collins once said, "I have seen a lot of football players, and if there's a better football player in the country than Eric Dickerson, I'd like to see him." SMU fans will never forget the wonderful moments he and the Pony Express brought to SMU. His setting the SWC rushing record in 1982 takes its place as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.