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Draft Q&A: Landon Dickerson on The Bumper, Nick Saban, Mac Jones & why Bama's different
We chat with one of the top offensive linemen in this year's draft.
Few draft prospects in general endured more pain than Landon Dickerson, the 6-foot-6, 333-pound center out of Alabama who’s drawn comparisons to the “Mountain” in Game of Thrones.
To recap, Dickerson was the first true freshman since Jamie Dukes in 1982 to start on the line for Florida State before an ACL injury ended his season. The next year, an ankle sidelined him. Then, in ‘18, another ankle injury ended his season. Good times were ahead, though. Dickerson transferred to Alabama in 2019 where he started four games at guard and nine games at center.
In 2020, he was named the nation’s best center and won a national title.
For this Q&A, we chatted about the famous “bumper” on Dickerson’s truck at ‘Bama. When his primary bumper was ripped off, rather than buy a new one, Dickerson threw a large chunk of wood on the front and bolted a “BAMA” license plate onto it. And when he was introduced to Alabama fan and fire captain Brian Wolnewitz — who was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer — he hatched an idea.
Dickerson partnered with Firefighters to the Rescue to raffle off the bumper and ended up raising an incredible $45,900 for the Wolnewitz family.
We get into how this relationship grew, learn all about a side of Nick Saban few people ever see and get Dickerson’s take on what makes Mac Jones different.
What you’re doing to help this firefighter with Stage 4 lung cancer is incredible. How did this all begin?
Dickerson: It happened when we were down in Miami for the National Championship. One of the coaches had a family that knew somebody who knew somebody that knew him. He’s a huge Alabama fan and I have a lot of respect for people who are first responders. My Dad was in fire rescue for 30 years. My Mom’s been in nursing all of her life. I have a lot of respect for those people. They spend their lives, they spend their careers just wanting to help other people. After talking to my coach, he asked if I’d reach out and call him. He told me that all the guys at the fire station had pooled together a bunch of money and bought him tickets to the National Championship Game. And he’s from the Miami area so, for him, it was a short drive.
So, we were playing down there obviously and it was a great opportunity for him to see us. It spoke a lot to me what all of those guys he works with think about him.
After I hopped on a call with him, talked with him, and talked with him quite frequently afterwards, we’ve kept a steady relationship. I have a bumper on the front of my truck. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s a little makeshift and a lot of people seem to love it. I thought it’d be a great idea to raffle that off and it’s a win-win for everybody. Alabama fans get an opportunity to get a one-off piece of memorabilia. It’s still bolted to my truck right now. Whenever the raffle’s over, it’s not a replica. It’s coming off the front of the truck. So I think it’s an awesome chance to get a piece of memorabilia like that. It’s a little big but whoever gets it will make it work. And it’ll also help out Brian, his family and firefighters who rescue. Helping charities out. They don’t have a steady source of income so any type of fundraiser like this helps them out tremendously.
So that bumper is still getting some good wear and tear? Only will get better?
Dickerson: Oh yeah, I wanted to give it a nice weathered look on the front of my truck. Kind of going through all the snowstorms and rain. So it’ll be nice and weathered if somebody wants to use it as a mantle or even as another front bumper. I don’t know anybody’s plans for it.
This says a lot about you really wanting to make a difference and change somebody’s life. Where does this come from for you?
Dickerson: I think it comes from my parents being in those kinds of professions and backgrounds. Also, I’ve been extremely blessed with the opportunity that I’m in. I get to play football and it’s gotten me through college. I’ve gotten my Masters degree and it’s hopefully going to give me the opportunity to play professionally and have a career and income from that. So I’ve been extremely fortunate and extremely blessed to have that opportunity. So I feel like people in my situation and people who are doing good, I feel an obligation to help other people out because I don’t really need everything, so why not try to help other people with it?
So your teammates are helping out with this, too? Signing the bumper?
Dickerson: Yeah, so the bumper is signed by DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Mac Jones, Thomas Fletcher, Deonte Brown, me and we have a helmet signed by the entire National Championship team that’ll go along with that as well.
How is Brian doing? Have you kept in touch with him?
Dickerson: He’s doing good. He still goes to work whenever he gets called in or whenever he’s scheduled to go in. He’s still trying to work and push through all that stuff and keep everything as normal as he can.
As a player, what do you think you’ll be able to give a team in the NFL?
Dickerson: The best thing I can say is watch the film and, if you like it, I’m the guy for you. I think I’m just a consistently hardworking guy and I want to finish all the time. That’s really what I pride myself on trying to do every play, every game, every day.
What was your upbringing like to instill that? You mentioned your parents. What made you who you are?
Dickerson: I think it was a combination of where I was from — Hickory, N.C., it’s not a huge place—and the upbringing my parents gave me. Grandparents. Other family members. Coaches in high school. The people I was around instilled that mindset in how I play.
What was Hickory like?
Dickerson: We’re in the foothills of North Carolina. It’s a small town. There’s a couple things to do, not a whole lot. My parents are actually moving to Tennessee. I don’t know if I’ll be going back there any time soon.
Football is just different where you played. I’d love it if 20 teams had a chance to realistically win it every year but Alabama has gotten to a point where it’s them, Clemson and everybody else. And it got to this point for a reason. What makes Alabama different? How did this shape you into who you are as well?
Dickerson: I think the biggest thing is the culture that’s instilled in every person here. It’s like a secret recipe. The way Coach Saban and all of the coaches recruit guys, they recruit guys that have that mindset so when they come in here — obviously it’s a different animal than high school — but that mentality that guys have, their character and personality is going to fit what we demand of them. And I think that’s what makes it special because we get buy-in from every single guy on the team. We don’t have a group of guys that are lagging behind or not on board with what we’re doing or not bought buy-in. It’s hard to believe but, this year, we had 100 percent buy-in no matter what was asked.
Especially this year. It was a little weird with Covid. You’ve got to tell guys: ‘Don’t be going out to eat. Don’t see your families on the weekend. Don’t visit friends on the weekends.’ So to have that 100 percent believing in what we’re doing, I think that’s what separates Alabama from other schools.
How difficult was it to not do all of that stuff?
Dickerson: I think the big thing was, how much does football mean to you? If you’re coming to Alabama, you know you’re coming here to one, get an education but, two, football means a lot to you. As a recruit coming in, you understand there’s going to be a high expectation for you coming in and a high expectation for what the team does. So everybody on this team, football means so much to them. I think people understood that if you want to be able to play football this year, there’s going to be sacrifices you have to make. But on the other end of that, if I’m in the locker room and I know these 20 guys in my row right here are all making sacrifices so I can play, so we can play so we can make this happen, it makes it easier for guys to say, “If everybody else is doing it, I can do it, too.”
I imagine it’s not this way everywhere. You said there’s a “secret recipe” but give us an idea of how tough it is there with Nick Saban once you do buy in.
Dickerson: It’s tough. We have expectations. We have a way things are done. And he knows how to win. So he knows what it takes from guys when it comes to lifting, conditioning, practicing, film study, nutrition, everything it takes. I think the big thing that people don’t see is on the field, at practice, Coach Saban is going to demand a lot from people but he cares for each player so much off the field. At the end of the day, he’s got your best interest at heart no matter what. You can go in there and talk to him about anything.
And that’s the difference. He’s going to push you to be the absolute best player you can be and he’s going to help you in any way possible. Whether it’s girlfriend issues, family issues, anything, you can talk to him. And the same thing with the rest of the coaching staff. It’s not like they’re trying to run you into the dirt every day and it’s “Pick yourself up and be back here tomorrow.” They really have your best interest at heart every day. I think that’s what really creates the culture. You understand it’s going to be tough but they care for you at the same time.
Because that’s in the back of our heads when we think of Alabama and Saban, that they’re just beating the shit out of you every day, right? That toughness is brutal day-in and day-out. We don’t really see this side. Maybe he really is willing to talk to anybody at any moment about any issue.
How excited are you to get to the NFL?
Dickerson: I’m really excited to take this next step. It’s a tremendous opportunity for me. I’m just excited to continue to play football. Football means the world to me and not just football but being a part of a team and making that team a family. That’s what I enjoy most about football — the camaraderie and being a part of something that 99.9 percent of the population is never going to understand. And the work that goes into it. The stuff that people don’t see. That’s really what I enjoy — working with those other guys and knowing how much we all put into it and how much we enjoy being around each other.
I think you’ve said that you and Mac Jones are a package deal, too?
Dickerson: I don’t know if any teams will go for that but we work really well together.
We seem to hear his name a lot more now than we did during the season. What can you tell us about Mac? What kind of quarterback is he?
Dickerson: Mac is everything I want in a quarterback and a teammate. He’s very specific about his preparation. He’s intentional about how he prepares for everything, whether it’s practice, film study, nutrition, weight room, exercise, the training room. Everything he does is intentional. The way that he carries himself and the way that he prepares for the game, he’s a student of the game. Every week, we’re in there watching film so we can anticipate everything that’s going to happen in the game. We’re never surprised when we see stuff. He doesn’t just try to rely on his athleticism to get things done. He practiced it. He continues to improve his strengths and fixes his weaknesses. I think he’ll do a tremendous job in the league because he’s always trying to get better every day. That’ll help him not only be a great player when he first gets there but a great player throughout his career.
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