How the death of his mom led an ex-NFL TE to a WWE tryout

Eric Adelson
Former tight end Dorin Dickerson recently had a tryout with World Wrestling Entertainment. (Getty Images)

By Dorin Dickerson (as told to Eric Adelson)

My dad’s family tree has football on every branch. My uncle Ron became the first black coach at Temple. Another uncle played at Louisville, and still another played at Nebraska. Then there are my cousins, who played for the Chiefs, for the Falcons, for the 49ers, and one more who could be drafted next year.

I played tight end for the Texans, Bills and Lions. It’s in the family.

Now as for my mom’s side? Well, she loved football as well. But she had a different passion.


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That’s pro wrestling. She loved Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. She ordered all the pay-per-views. We had a pretty big TV in the basement but for some reason we’d always gather around this tiny TV in the kitchen. That’s where we’d watch. My grandma too!

You’d understand it if you saw my mom. Pamela Dickerson was 5-foot-1 but she was fiery. She walked into a room and she was 7 feet tall. The heart of a lion.

Dorin Dickerson played in three NFL seasons, including one in Detroit. (AP)

My dad always let her do her thing and we all loved wrestling. I had all the action figures and I tried all the moves, jumping off the couch. I’d say my favorite was Sting. I can hear the Sting music in my head. I wanted to walk into an arena and everyone would be so terrified!

But eventually I went into the family business. I love football. I loved playing football, I love talking about football. That’s what I do now, on my radio show in Pittsburgh, where I played college ball for the Panthers. It’s sports and personality, and my hometown has lots of both.

It turns out someone in the radio business thought I had some personality as well. He passed my name along to an absolute titan of personality. And earlier this year I got an email from Jim Ross.

That’s “J.R.” for those who don’t know. He’s the voice of the WWE, and he’s so iconic that when I read his email I read it aloud as if I was him. I couldn’t believe he had reached out to me.

He asked me if I wanted to give the squared circle a shot.

My reaction? As Sting would say, “It’s Showtime!”

Former WWE announcer Jim Ross suggested Dorin Dickerson take part in a WWE tryout. (Getty Images)

Last weekend, I flew to Orlando for a tryout. It was myself and 45 other hopefuls. Let me tell you, it was a rush. In some ways the cardio was as challenging as anything I did in the NFL. Everything was a little tougher than you’d think: the pressure, the mat, even the ropes! I thought there would be a little more give when I backed into the nylon but by the end of the weekend I had marks on my back. I learned I could actually flip, and I learned the quickest way to pop off the canvas. It was one of the most unbelievable experiences – to be in a room in a facility with dozens of different people from all around the world, with one goal in mind: impress the scouts. I got to meet new Hall of Famer Mark Henry, and he’s one of the nicest guys ever. In one of my interviews I called out Lacey Evans. Hey, you gotta stand out! But it’s cut and dry. Either you make it or you don’t. We’ll see.

Already I’ve been asked about my persona. I think I’d rather be a heel. I can get a reaction. I can antagonize. I’m thinking about “Rico Dash” – kind of a good guy and a bad guy. You never know who you’re going to get. You can’t trust me. Some days I’m on your side, some days I’m not. Rico is the good guy and Dash is scary. I guess it’s a little like my football life: Somedays I’m happy-go-lucky. Some days I want to run through a wall.

If I make it, I want to pay some kind of homage to Pitt. Maybe it’ll be the color of my tights or boots. Maybe I’ll have a Panther Bomb as a finishing move. Right now though it’s so early. I was out in the ring last week in sweats.

Dorin Dickerson and his parents. (Photo courtesy Dorin Dickerson)

All through the tryout I was thinking about my mom. She passed away last December from a heart attack. She was 65. It was like losing a mother and a sister. I am her only child. So I want to do this to honor her. She was the one who really gave me my start in wrestling, paying for all those pay-per-views and handing down that fiery personality to me.

All those years in a football family and then this happens. Crazy how that happens. I can see my mom up there now, flashing a little smirk. She’s saying, “It’s my time now.”

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