By Barry Faulkner
2:30 PM PST, December 28, 2012
Doug Smith says he no longer watches the hazy VHS tape, now nearly three decades old, on which he appears as a hulking accomplice to history.
The former Los Angeles Rams center, who made the first of his six Pro Bowls in 1984 while helping then-teammate Eric Dickerson rush for an NFL single-season-record 2,105 yards, said such game video is still pushed into the throwback VHS player by his son, Cole, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore who started for the Mission Viejo High football team in 2012. It also makes its way onto the family room TV screen when some of the Orange Coast College people-movers Smith tutors as the Pirates' veteran offensive line coach, make their periodic visits to his house for an in-season meal.
But the images of Dickerson slashing through holes Smith helped create, as well as making holes where few existed, have been more frequent in Smith's 56-year-old mind's eye in recent weeks. That's because Dickerson's historic run has been approached by Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson.
Peterson enters Sunday's game against Green Bay with 1,898 yards. He needs 208 to surpass the mark for which Smith forcefully paved the way.
"I've heard Eric doesn't want [Peterson] to break it and neither do any of the linemen [who blocked for Dickerson]," said Smith, who noted he will "keep an eye" on Peterson's progress on Sunday. "So much is made of fantasy football now. But there are no offensive linemen in fantasy football, so we've got to hold on to what little we can get. Eric made that record something special for all of us.
"As an offensive line coach, we still run the counter trey play that we ran so much with Eric that season," Smith said. "Once in a while when I'm teaching that play, one of my favorite plays in football, I tell our guys, 'Here's how Dickerson would run it.' The Washington Redskins invented the play and John Riggins would run it. Riggins [a Hall of Famer] was a real good running back. But Riggins was a Clydesdale and Eric was a thoroughbred."
Smith recalled that the counter trey play called for him to "influence" the noseguard featured by the prevailing 3-4 alignment of the day, then block back on the backside defensive end [away from the intended direction of the back]. But as defenses became more adept at diagnosing the blocking scheme, Smith said Dickerson would still make it work.
"Even if the nose read it, Eric could cut it back behind my block [on the end]," Smith said. "He used his speed to make his own adjustment and we got some of our longest runs cutting back to the left when the play was designed to go to the right."
Smith had an up-close vantage point on many long runs that season, he said.
"As an offensive lineman, you like that the four guys you are working with are all in sync," Smith said. "You also like the [running back] behind you to be able to get through the hole and be able to make an extra yard. Well, Eric Dickerson would make an extra 20 yards. When he broke through the line, I used to raise my arms in the air [signaling touchdown].
"It always appeared as if Dickerson wasn't working that hard, because he was so smooth," said Smith, who played in 187 games, 160 as a starter, in 14 seasons for the Rams, with whom he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green. "I have a master's degree in exercise science and I teach a class in the theory of weight training. But there are some things you just can't teach and Eric Dickerson has some of that. He improved upon his gifts, but he made other guys look like they were moving in slow motion. He once came in on [Ed] Too Tall Jones [a former Dallas Cowboys defensive end who was the first overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft] and Too Tall ended up grabbing air."
Smith said Dickerson was always appreciative of his linemen, who included tackles Jackie Slater and Irv Pankey, as well as guards Dennis Harrah, Bill Bain and Tom Newberry. After the record-setting season, Dickerson awarded his blockers rings with a diamond 2,105 insignia.
"I'm not much of a jewelry guy, but that's one of the keepsakes I have from my career," Smith said of the ring.
Peterson, who gained just 86 yards in the Vikings' win over Houston on Sunday, enters Sunday's game with lingering soreness from an abdominal injury.
Smith said Peterson is the kind of runner blockers appreciate.
"He's an amazing specimen, amazingly strong, particularly after [rehabilitating] from ACL surgery [during which a torn MCL was also repaired in late 2011]," Smith said. "He has been a good example for athletes everywhere and I wish him nothing but the best. But I'm glad he got 86 yards last week. He can wind up with 2,103 or 2,104 and that would be just fine."