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Dickerson’s Biggest Gain Is Off the Field : Rams’ Star Figures to Make Millions in Assorted Business Ventures

Times Staff Writer

Eric Dickerson’s passions for fast cars, lovely ladies and fancy clothes have been fulfilled through his own natural assets: fast feet and fancy moves.

“I’ve always thought big,” he said recently. “I’ve always believed in having the nicest things. When I couldn’t afford it, I would dream big. And now I can afford it.”

Dickerson lives in an Irvine condominium with his younger brother, Leo, and his college teammate, Charles Drayton, and they take turns driving the two Porsches, the van, the sedan and the plum-colored Corvette that Eric brought from Southern Methodist University two years ago.

But he hasn’t merely indulged his own whims and fancies. He built a 3,000-square-foot house in Sealy, Tex., for the woman he calls Mom, Viola, the great aunt who raised him. He also donated a $7,500 scholarship to SMU, and he is buying custom made rings for the Ram blockers who helped him to a National Football League record of 2,105 yards rushing last season.

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After his rookie season, when he led the league with 1,808 yards rushing, he and quarterback Vince Ferragamo split the cost of Rolex watches for the blockers.

“And after this year they’re gonna have to settle for dinners and stuff,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson may indeed plead poverty by claiming, correctly, that he stands to earn considerably less from the Rams in 1985 than he did in ’84. Because of a quirk in his contract, he earned $400,000 in salary and bonuses last season but will make only $350,000 the next.

What about a bonus for breaking the record? Owner Georgia Frontiere hasn’t offered him one, nor has she offered an extension of his contract at a significant increase.

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But Eric Demetric Dickerson will do all right anyway. Before he’s through, thanks to off-the-field opportunities, he may even double his football income.

According to Milton Kahn of Los Angeles, Dickerson’s public relations consultant, “He is headed for the biggest endorsement career of anyone that’s ever been in that business.”

Said Kahn of the rushing record: “It’s the biggest record that’s ever been put together in football, probably a multimillion-dollar benefit to Eric, not in immediate residuals but over the period of a year or two.”

Keep in mind, of course, that Kahn speaks with all the restraint typical of a high-powered PR man.

Kahn said he prefers to represent only “Tiffany-type clients,” and that among those, “no one has ever had the magic of Eric Dickerson.” His clientele has included Gregory Peck, Michael Landon, Herb Alpert and George Brett.

The voluble Kahn is the antithesis of Dickerson’s main man, Jack Mills, the relatively easygoing lawyer from Boulder, Colo., whose greatest mistake may have been underselling Dickerson to the Rams for $2.2 million two years ago. But who could have anticipated such success?

“I don’t think anyone could have foreseen this kind of performance when we negotiated his contract,” Mills said. “I would imagine (Miami quarterback) Dan Marino is in the same situation.”

Kahn said that he and Mills are a team. They were on the phone early the Monday morning after Dickerson broke the record against the Houston Oilers Dec. 9. They have brought others into the circle, all at Dickerson’s approval. Dickerson is very wary.

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“I try to avoid the get-rich-quick deals,” Dickerson said. “A guy says, ‘I’ll make you rich, but I’m not rich.’ Now you know that’s a hoax.”

Dickerson seems to be dealing with proven heavyweights. There is Charles Stern, a commercial agent who connected James Garner with Polaroid, Telly Savalas with Ford, Dennis Weaver with Great Western Savings and Merlin Olsen with flowers.

Joel Gotler, a literary agent, will organize a book on Dickerson.

Herb Klynn, who produced the Lone Ranger and Chipmunks cartoon series, and Playhouse Productions, which won an Emmy for animation with its “Duck Factory” production, are making a cartoon series featuring Dickerson in caricature. It’s due to make its debut this fall under the hand of writer Chris Jenkins of “Bullwinkle” success.

The people at the American Program Bureau, who have done business with Washington Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann and Baltimore Oriole pitcher Jim Palmer, plan to arrange lectures for Dickerson, at about $5,000 a pop.

There is talk of a movie. Producer Roger Corman is another of Kahn’s clients.

Was anybody left out? Even Dickerson’s agents have agents, all with a single goal: to make money with and for Eric Dickerson.

Stern is more cautious than Kahn. He said: “The most successful person this year will be (San Francisco 49er quarterback) Joe Montana because of the Super Bowl. He’ll have endorsements of well over a million dollars.”

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Stern does not represent Montana but said he has had, on Dickerson’s behalf, discussions with a car manufacturer, a soft-drink company and car rental companies.

Dickerson said: “I don’t want to do anything real small that would cut me out of something major.”

Kahn said that’s a basic error committed by emerging athletes who don’t understand their worth.

“I think it would be a marvelous experience for him to test the market,” Kahn said. “Heaven knows what’s out there, (but) it’s got to be a quality product--a blue-chip situation.”

Tiffany-type.

Mills said: “We’re trying to go very slowly. We’ve attempted to be very selective. It’s very tempting to jump sometimes.”

Dickerson currently has only two major endorsements, for adidas shoes and Voit footballs. But Kahn sees more potential for Dickerson than most athletes because of the player’s natural affinity for people and his sense of public relations.

Kahn said: “I represented one other athlete, George Brett. We turned down one TV offer because he decided he didn’t want to get up in the morning to do it.”

At the other extreme was Montana after his other Super Bowl season three years ago. He ran himself into the ground chasing every opportunity.

Montana is learning, though. After the Pro Bowl game at Honolulu Jan. 27, he hopped over to Kauai for a couple of extra days’ rest with his fiancee, Jennifer Wallace, before starting the winter rounds.

Dickerson went to Maui for the week.

“I could be out every night,” Dickerson said. “I’m gonna try to keep it down some. If I accepted everything, I’d be ragged by training camp. Those six months go around real quick. I want to have some free time. I want to have a good off-season, first of all. I want to enjoy it.”

He didn’t see the new house in Sealy until the season was over but was satisfied that it had been built to his specifications.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s nice. I think now I’m gonna have a swimming pool put in the back and have it all fenced in. I can see myself putting a lot of time in there. I like it a lot better than I like my place. A whole lot better.

“I want to get me a house. A condo is nice, but it’s just not the same.”

He could no doubt have both. Kahn believes Dickerson can be what Reggie Jackson is to TV sets, Jim Palmer to underwear and Mary Lou Retton to cereal. Maybe bigger.

“The thing you have to remember is he’s only 24 years old,” Kahn said.


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