Landon Dickerson's injury shows just how much he means to Alabama football
In some ways, it was losing the soul of the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (11-0). It was losing the gasoline that livened Alabama's fire.
Dickerson is expected to miss all Alabama’s College Football Playoff run staring with the Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texas, against No. 4 Notre Dame (10-1) on Friday (3 p.m., ESPN). Chris Owens, who started four games at center last year and has been used as a tight end in specialty packages this season, will be the starter.
What Alabama won't have is what made Dickerson both invaluable to his teammates and well-liked within the fan base.
“That guy will put his whole life on the line for Alabama football, and if he could he’d play as soon as he can for us because he just wants to be back, but obviously the injuries are the injuries,” quarterback Mac Jones said. “I mean it sucked to see that, but you saw just in that little moment there with our whole team kind of going out and just saying, ‘We’re with you man. Prayers up.’ It’s definitely devastating to lose him, but at the same time he brought a whole other energy to our offense, and we just got to carry that on.”
Dickerson has made an impact on UA in such a short time, joining the program in 2019 after he transferred from Florida State.
Dickerson had the same effect when he played in high school.
In his native Hickory, North Carolina, Dickerson transferred from one side of the local rivalry to the other: Hickory High to South Caldwell High. Marc Kirkpatrick, on the staff at South Caldwell at the time, only needed to give Dickerson the slightest of nudges to unlock his now famous competitiveness.
South Caldwell ran the wing-T with the power sweep as a staple of its offense. Offensive linemen as talented as Dickerson were useful as pull blockers on the perimeter.
“At the beginning, he liked to hit them and lay on them,” Kirkpatrick said. “Once we told him to hit that guy and go hit another guy, he’d knock three of them down.”
Dickerson showed his ability to get under opponents’ skin — as he did in his first UA game, when a Duke defensive lineman was ejected for going after Dickerson after the snap. When Dickerson needed to, he didn’t mind being the one sending the message, as he did in South Caldwell’s game against St. Stephens during his senior year. Defensive linemen decided to neutralize Dickerson by cutting him, keeping him from getting where he needed to go by diving at his knees.
“After the third time the kid cut him, he literally picked the kid and suplexed him. It looked like old professional wrestling,” Kirkpatrick said. “Of course he got thrown out of the game immediately.
“I guess he was just proving a point.”
It was Dickerson’s knee injury in the SEC Championship Game that proved he is more to UA than its pesky center. He has become a favorite of the locker room — evidenced by the players flooding off the sideline to meet him on the injury cart.
“He would probably go down as the class clown,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s so fun to be around. What’s amazing is how he can lock in: boom, he’s into football, but as soon as the play is over he’s back to fun-loving Landon.”
Dickerson won’t be on the field in the College Football Playoff, but he will have an impact in UA’s quest to win it.
“It was tough when it happened but everybody came out there and told him that they loved him and that we were going to do this for him,” wide receiver DeVonta Smith said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson