By: Shelley McKinley
Born on Christmas Eve 1945, to a pastor and a nurse, it was becoming that Eldridge Dickey’s nickname would later turn out to be ‘The Lord’s Prayer.” He grew up in Independence Heights, the primary Black city in Texas earlier than it later grew to become a part of Houston’s Fourth Ward. Whereas attending Lockett Junior Excessive College in Houston, Dickey was rapidly moved into the quarterback place in seventh grade, based mostly on the velocity and accuracy of the balls he returned throughout his transient stint as a large receiver. Dickey grew to become identified amongst his junior excessive coaches as ‘The Boy with the Golden Arm.’
At Booker T. Washington Excessive College in Houston, extra folks, together with school scouts, received to see what Dickey’s junior highschool coaches noticed in him as a quarterback. He might throw with each arms, had arm power, and possessed the velocity of a observe star. He additionally had an IQ within the 130s. Because of this, Dickey was a standout among the many Prairie View Interscholastic League and extremely recruited to attend Tennessee State College (TSU). TSU received an intense recruiting battle for the extremely embellished 6’2, 190 pound quarterback, who was identified for his agility, quickness, and ambidextrous throwing capacity. It was there at Tennessee State College, from 1965 to 1968, that he acquired his nickname ‘ e Lord’s Prayer.’ When he determined to attend Tennessee State College, he was given the nickname by head coach John Merritt. First, he was an answered prayer for the college’s soccer program. Dickey led Tennessee State to an ideal season in 1966 and the Nationwide Black School Soccer Championship. Second, Dickey led his staff in prayer earlier than each recreation.
CBS Sports activities reported that Former Tennessee State coach Joe Gilliam Sr. as soon as mentioned. “Our stadium would maintain about 18,000 and at recreation time there can be about 30,000 folks in right here. Breaking each re code that you simply wish to take into consideration, however that’s the best way they got here. ey got here from all around the nation to see that younger man, Eldridge Dickey, play.” In an period when groups had been typically scared to throw the ball, Dickey handed for six,628 yards and 74 touchdowns in three seasons at Tennessee State. Whereas Dickey was quarterbacking the Tigers, they put collectively a document of 34-5-1 in 4 years. Though two different Black males served as quarterbacks within the NFL, every with one look within the place, it was Eldrige Dickey that was the first Black quarterback to be chosen within the first spherical of the January 1968 NFL/AFL Draft , making him the first black quarterback to be taken within the first spherical of any draft. Eldridge Dickey was the twenty fifth decide within the first spherical by the Oakland Raiders for the quarterback place. He was signed to a deal value $150,000 in 4 years. Previous to that, Charlie Brackens was drafted within the sixteenth spherical to the Inexperienced Bay Packers from Prairie View A & M College in 1955. Willie Thrower was not drafted however did have a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears.
Shockingly, the Oakland Raiders additionally selected Ken Stabler, a white participant, because the 52nd decide within the 2nd spherical of the 1968 draft for a similar quarterback place. When the 1968 Oakland Raiders roster was launched, Ken Stabler was certainly one of three quarterbacks, and Eldridge Dickey was certainly one of six extensive receivers. It was a 180 diploma change in stance from what Dickey was led to consider throughout his final yr at Tennessee State College. In line with the Baltimore Solar (Sept. 2020), Al Davis, then basic supervisor and half proprietor of the Oakland Raiders, repeatedly got here to the college to scout Dickey. When requested by Coach Merritt if Dickey would get a good shot on the quarterback place, Davis replied sure.
In line with Vance Soccer Data (2006), compiled by NFL author, researcher and historian Lloyd Vance, many puzzled if Davis was trying to be a maverick and switch the staff over to a Black quarterback or if he noticed one other athletic Black quarterback that wanted to be transformed. Different rumors acknowledged that the Raiders needed to maintain Dickey away from their rival, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, who additionally had their eye on him. Chiefs Head Coach Hank Stram had been a grasp at discovering gems at traditionally black faculties throughout this time as proven by his 1966 Tremendous Bowl I shedding squad, which featured HBCU gamers Emmitt omas, Bobby Bell, Fred Williamson and others. Additionally it is unknown if this determination was influenced by the predominant stereotype on the time that Blacks weren’t clever sufficient to be succesful leaders or if it was solely based mostly on Dickey’s athletic capacity. Regardless of the rationale, this got here as a blow to a participant who at one time instructed his former coach, Joe Gilliam Sr., that if he couldn’t play quarterback he didn’t wish to play. In line with the Washington Submit, Davis instructed Dickey that whereas he wouldn’t play quarterback his first yr, he might compete for the backup place in future seasons, and was even given a jersey quantity reserved for quarterbacks, quantity 10. Dickey accepted the place hoping for a possibility to play within the quarterback place.
Ms. LaCanas Casselle, school sweetheart and ex-wife of Dickey, shared on Genmaspeaks podcast (2014), that she and Dickey each majored in Well being and Bodily Schooling and bonded throughout their school experiences. She was a cheerleader and majorette whereas Dickey performed soccer. They married in 1966. Shortly after the 1968 draft, additionally they skilled the dying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. collectively. Throughout that point, Dickey flew to Houston to share these experiences along with his mom and flew his spouse to Houston. He purchased a house for his mom and took his spouse on purchasing sprees to Neiman Marcus. He needed them to share in his luck. Dickey’s daughter, Shaun Casselle, shared throughout her interview on Genmaspeaks that Dickey carried the hopes and desires of his former coaches and fellow HBCU soccer gamers in addition to his personal. “He needed to be the first Black man to start out as an NFL quarterback. Not enjoying within the quarterback place was actually a dream deferred. America wasn’t prepared for him,” lamented Casselle Satirically it was Marlin Briscoe, who was taken within the 14th spherical of the identical 1968 draft by the Denver Broncos (AFL) as a defensive again, who broke by way of as the primary black beginning quarterback setting Broncos’ rookie information of 1,589 yards passing with 14 touchdowns. Briscoe, too, was later transformed to extensive receiver after his one season as a quarterback. Briscoe later received two mi Dolphins groups of the early 1970’s.
Briscoe, who’s credited as being the first black beginning quarterback within the NFL, wrote within the e-book, ‘ ird and a Mile: e Trials and Triumph of the Black Quarterback’ that Dickey was “An distinctive athlete, who was too good of a quarterback, at a time when society was not prepared for him”. Briscoe wrote that Dickey got here to his residence when the Raiders performed the Broncos in Denver and that he might see that Dickey was despondent over the place change. He mentioned, “You would see from his physique language that the place change was not sitting effectively with him.” Briscoe added “To be sincere with you, he ought to have been the primary black quarterback to start out.”
What started as a promising NFL profession stuffed with hope in 1968, took a flip. It’s believed that the place change affected Dickey’s efficiency on the sector. He made only one catch for 34 yards and 6 punt returns for 48 yards in 11 video games within the 1968 season. John Madden took over as coach of the Oakland raiders in 1969. In line with the Washington Submit, the evening earlier than the Raider’s pre-season recreation towards the Chiefs in Birmingham, Stabler stop the staff. His alternative opened the door for Dickey. e Raider’s deliberate to let Dickey begin the second half of the sport, however quarterback Daryle Lamonica harm his throwing hand within the second quarter. With Stabler watching from the stands, Dickey went in, and wound up operating for a 20-yard landing. Later within the recreation he threw three interceptions and fumbled, however stored the Chiefs guessing along with his spontaneity. Dickey went on to attach with extensive receiver Rod Sherman ultimately zone for a possible game-winning rating, however Sherman stepped out of bounds and the Raiders misplaced 23 – 17. Dickey was praised for scrambling by the Chief ’s coach Stram, however dismissed by the Raider’s coach Madden saying, “We choose our quarterbacks to drop again and throw the ball.”
Dickey had one different alternative to play within the quarterback place the following week towards Baltimore, throwing for 74 yards and dashing for one more 26. Nonetheless, when Stabler returned in 1970, Dickey was requested to return to extensive receiver for good. His ex-wife Casselle, who separated from Dickey earlier than his time with the Raiders ended, acknowledged “He at all times felt like, ‘If I can’t play quarterback, there goes my dream.’ It harm a lot. It modified his complete persona.” Dickey started to skip practices and disappeared for 2 weeks in 1970, the second season through which he by no means noticed the sector.
He didn’t play in one other recreation till 1971 the place he made 4 catches for 78 yards with one landing and was minimize from the staff seven video games into the season after dropping a cross towards the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs that might have been a landing. It was an enormous drop in a 20-20 tie towards the Chiefs on Oct. 31, 1971. e Raiders waivered Dickey, however rescinded the waiver request when the Chiefs claimed him. Later, Madden kicked Dickey off the staff in December. e Oakland Raiders traded Dickey to the Baltimore Colts in 1972. The Colts then shipped him to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. Coach Stram, who twice tried to get Dickey mentioned later, “What occurred to Eldridge Dickey has to go down as one of many best sports activities crimes ever dedicated. your complete sports activities world was robbed by the Oakland Raiders.” Dickey’s one season with the Chiefs gave him the ve years of service wanted for his pension.
In an interview with the Kansas Metropolis Star, Dickey defined, “All people desires to name a person a legal, however nobody asks him why he grew to become one. If you need one thing for therefore lengthy, if you put out and suppose you’ve earned it – after which have it taken away from you, your want dies. Mine did.” Dickey’s recreation was extra fitted to Twenty first-century soccer and would have been applauded immediately. Quoted within the Baltimore Solar, “He would have been a star,” mentioned James (Shack) Harris, who performed towards Dickey in school and later grew to become the primary Black participant to start out a season at quarterback. “He had pocket consciousness and the flexibility to scramble and run. He was quick. there was nothing that he couldn’t do.”
Recognition escaped Dickey whereas he was alive, however has occurred over time. Most lately, Houston ISD included Eldridge Dickey, together with 15 different people and a staff, into its 2021 inaugural class of the HISD Athletic Corridor of Honor. Dickey was additionally posthumously inducted within the Black School Soccer Corridor of Fame, in addition to the Tennessee Sports activities Corridor of Fame. His ex-wife, daughter and grandson, Brayden Dickey, had been current in Nashville, TN for his induction to the Tennessee Sports activities Corridor of Fame. Brayden Dickey accepted his grandfather’s Sports activities Corridor of Fame ring on Eldridge Dickey’s behalf. Eldridge Dickey died on Might 22, 2000, at age 54. He’s buried at Paradise North Cemetery in Houston, TX.