Running Back

San Diego Chargers – 1967-1970

Houston Oilers & Denver Broncos – 1971

TT – Tell me about how you came to the Chargers.

DP – Actually, that was Bum Phillips.  You know Bum, right?  The year that I got drafted, Bum, Sid Gillman hired him as a defensive coordinator.  So when my name came up in the draft…of course that was before little running backs.  I think, who was that guy from L.A?  That was the time before small running backs.  But anyway, Bum put in a plug for me.  He said, “Boy, you can’t go wrong with the kid.”  So that’s what happened.  But actually what happened, of course I had been a running back through high school and college, but they put me at flanker behind Lance.  Yeah, that’s what happened.  I actually made the team as a flanker behind Lance Alworth.  But then another interesting story that goes along with that…  What happened was that we went through training camp and everything and I made the team as a flanker behind Lance.  The, you’ve heard of Paul Lowe?  He was the Player of the Year a couple of years before.  So he got hurt.  He pulled a hamstring or something or other.  Then it was the weekend before we were going to play the Houston Oilers, and we had an off day that weekend.  So they called me in and said, “Dick, just learn the running back’s spot because you have done this before and we’re running short.”  But basically that’s exactly what happened.  Of course I just sat on the bench and there was another kid that was my roommate, by the name of Jim Allison, who could play fullback or halfback.  Anyway, Paul re-injured his leg and then Jim Allison went in the next play.  That’s when we were playing the Houston Oilers.  He just got knocked out.  Old Sid just looked up and down the bench.  I was the only guy there that could play running back.  That’s how it all started.  I think I gained, on kick off returns and pass receiving and all that; I think I gained, 66 or 70 yards in rushing and everything.  Anyway, that’s how that all started.  Then Brad Hubbert, remember Brad?  He and I were in.  Then the next week, I don’t know who in the Hell we were playing, but I had a good game.  I gained like 110 yards rushing and kick off returns and that sort of thing.  So back in those days, that was just normal.  Naïve me, I thought that’s just how you were supposed to do it.  Then Sid, he and Paul never got along.  Paul Lowe.  It was really too bad.  I was such a naïve kid then.  I thought that’s just the way it works.  I had no idea this guy was an all-pro.  That’s Paul Lowe I’m talking about.  Sid, like I told you before, Todd, he just hung that shit out on you.  It was really too bad.  But there again, that’s what I am saying.  Your job could be taken that quickly.  I just thought, well Hell, if you do better than the next guy, then you’re supposed to get it.  But I had no idea.  I had absolutely no idea that you had to play for several years before you got that sort of credibility.  So anyway, that’s how I started and then all of a sudden it became a pretty flared-up thing.  Brad and I were the rookies and e just kept us in there.  Then poor Paul, he just got put by the sideline.  He eventually got traded to Kansas City.  But I don’t know.  Looking back on it, I just thought that wasn’t a good thing to do.  In fact, the other teammates, I guess they were sort of going…  Well, everybody was looking out for their own jobs.  But there again, that’s exactly what I am saying that Sid could do.  He could hang that shit over you, and that’s what he would do.  There was no way in Hell I should have been playing, because Paul had earned his credentials and everything.  Here I am, just a damn kid out of nowhere that made the team as a flanker, and all of a sudden I am the star running back.  But I made it.  I was Co-Rookie of the Year.  But anyway, that’s sort of what happened.

TT – Was the competition what you expected from a pro team?

DP – You know, for me, not really.  I think I was just so damn naïve that I just expected that’s what I should be doing.  Back in those days, really nobody knew.  I think it was just my naivety, but that’s just what I thought I was supposed to do.  For me, college was probably harder for me actually than it was in the pros.  I know that sounds a bit weird.  But in college I was expected to do that every week and I did it every week.  I was expected to do that.  But things were so different.  I ran a little heavy in college and didn’t have the moves that I did in the pros.  But honestly, after my first knee operation, I got together with this Dr. Carter at San Diego State.  That was way before all of the muscle balance and all of that.  That’s where it happened and that’s what really changed my whole deal.  I happened to be living next to San Diego State and this Dr. Carter; he came out with the Chargers.  That was back when everybody was trying to experiment with different things.  He experimented on us in two-a-days and everything.  He was able to evaluate if you were going to pull a hamstring.  It’s muscle balance; the difference between your quadriceps and your hamstrings.  Mine was totally out of balance.  Totally.  Anyway, to make a long story short, it was serious.  Now they fix those things all together.  But I had a torn up knee.  So I went to him on my own.  It had nothing to do with the Chargers.  I said, “God, can you help me?”  He said, “Yeah, if you will really go with me on this thing, I can really help you.”  So, I put my faith in him and he made me stretch as long as I worked out.  I worked out with really, really light weights, trying to coordinate the hamstring.  My hamstrings were way weaker than my quadriceps, and it was totally out of balance.  So after I went through this whole thing, I said, “OK, I’m going to go with it.”  So that’s what happened.  Then my speed increased and that’s what happened when I got all that damn speed.  Because I was muscle balanced.  My God, I could run like a deer.  To me, it was just incredible.  So anyway, that’s how I started.

TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.

DP – We just didn’t get along.  I just didn’t see eye-to-eye with what he was doing.  Of course, I was a kid and this guy had been well respected, and certainly had earned that.  However, his camaraderie with the players left something to be desired.  I felt a little bad.  Here I am nearly 60 years old.  He just died.  I feel bad about saying that, but the truth was that it didn’t matter if you were Lance or me or any of our linemen or anybody.  He kept you under pressure at all times.  I just didn’t think that was conducive to running a football team.  I’m certainly not the one in charge of that, but basically that’s what it was.  I always thought we had the talent to really go all the way, but Sid just kept you under…  Do you understand what I’m saying, Todd?  He just kept you under the damn gun all the time.  You were just scared to death all the damn time.  I remember Ron Mix and Jacque MacKinnon.  He’s dead now.  They went in there as a team.  Of course Ron’s a lawyer now.  But they went in to negotiate their contracts. I guess the story goes that they came out of there and they didn’t get a dime for anything.  The guy was just a…  Gillman was just a dictator.  He had total control.  It was so different than it is today.  I see the way it is today.  If you want to do a 360, that’s exactly the way that it is.  These kids now have control of what they’re doing.  And in some ways I think that’s good, some ways I am not so sure.  But it is definitely a 360 from with Gillman and the players had no control.  Absolutely no control whatsoever.  They just kept you…  You couldn’t be traded; you couldn’t do anything.  You were pretty much controlled by the owner.  Klein and Gillman, they were all hooked up.  I made $35,000 when I led the league in rushing.  Then I wanted a raise.  That was about it.  Give me another $5,000.  And they were making great money then.  So, you see what I’m saying?  It’s the honest truth.  I don’t think Lance was making much more than I was.  Of course, I was just a kid.  I had no idea.  I thought for what I was doing I deserved more money.  But no, they just wanted to control it all.  So basically, that’s my feeling about Gillman.  I just hated it.  Nobody wants to be under that sort of pressure.  And I think we could have done well.  And I know everybody thinks Gillman…  There was a lot of stuff I didn’t know though.  I didn’t know the AFL was just an embryo, really.  Throwing to Lance and opening it all up.  Hell, I didn’t know any of that stuff.  I was just a kid.  My God, I was just a kid.  I was happy to be there.  I will say that.  And they gave me a break.  I earned it.  Don‘t get that wrong.  I earned the Hell out of it.  If I just played for someone else and they handled me right, I think I maybe could have had a few better years.  But all in all, I got what I got out of it.  Basically that was about it.  I played five years all together and I only had three good years.  That’s all I had was three good years.  Then after that my knees were…  I had five operations in five years.  I was worn out.  I was absolutely worn out.  They finally traded me and that was all good.  But Hell, I didn’t know.  That’s all I knew was football.  Then you have got to step away from it.  I think that’s what I wrote you on something.  But that’s just been a little part of my life.  In some ways I can’t believe that was me that did that 30 years ago.  But it was my whole life.  It was just my entire, whole damn life.  That’s all I knew.  I went to college just to play football.  I went through class and everything, but Hell that’s all I was there for, just to play football.  So I made it as good as I probably could have.  That’s what happened.  It’s sort of an exciting story, but it’s just sort of a flash in the pan.  That’s about it.  But for a little kid like me from Oklahoma, to lead the league inrushing and to be mentioned in the same article as Gale Sayers…  I always thought Sayers was…  I just loved to watch him.  He says he could watch the whole damn field.  He had peripheral vision.  I am not in a class like him, but at least I got a little taste of it.  For a little kid from where I come from, just to rub shoulders with those guys.  I think I went to one all-star game.  I was elected to three of them, but I had operations and shit.  But I got play in one of them.  So hey, it wasn’t a bad trip.

TT – You had a number of off-field activities like the clothing shops, etc.  Did Gillman ever let on that he disapproved of things that took your concentration away from football?

DP – Yeah.  You have done your homework, haven’t you?  Yeah, yeah.  See, that’s just how controlling all of that shit was.  Can you believe that today, though?  It’s just the other way around.  But no, they didn’t want you to…  Of course they wanted control of you.  That was the whole trip, especially Gillman.  He never mentioned it to me, but it was just understood that you don’t do anything like that outside of football.  You can’t take your attention away from football.  So basically that was it.  There was nothing really said.  It was just understood that’s just the way that it was.  But Hell, I was just a young kid.  I thought I was on top of the world.  I thought this shit was going to go on forever.  That was just being stupid and young.  Honestly for me, I was never that way.  I just tried to fit in.  I got totally sidetracked with who I was.  I was just a little kid from Oklahoma.  I lived with my grandparents when I was a kid and we lived in a little two-room house with a bunch of kids.  I got carried away.  I absolutely got carried away.  Kind of not too hard to look at, had all the women in the world and I was running good.  Hell, I just lost it.  I had no idea.  Especially California from Oklahoma back in those days.  My God, you have got to be kidding.  We don’t do that shit here in Oklahoma.  But there was a lot of stuff I wasn’t very proud of.  I just tried to fit in.  It was such a shallow life, really.  It was a shallow life compared to the way it is now.  My God.  But back in those days we didn’t have any advisors; we didn’t have any counseling.  What the Hell would you do?  If they threw open a candy store out there for you, what the Hell would you do when you never had a damn thing in your life?  There’s a lot of stuff I’m really embarrassed about; that whole damn thing.  Because that was never me.  That was just never me.  I just tried to be somebody I wasn’t.  At that time, it was just a few years.  I look back on it now and I’m approaching 60.  I’ll be 59 soon.  But my God, you look back and you go, “Oh my God.  That’s a little embarrassing.”  Getting a look at all that shit.  But I played it for all it was worth.  You gotta give yourself a break.  It was just the times.  You said it exactly right, Todd.  You can’t beat yourself up for it because it just happened and that is the way it was.  I couldn’t control it, and I just went for it.  But I had a lot of great experiences.  I just loved it all.  That will always be part, just a tiny little part of my life.  As time goes on, I think you said you were in your 30s.  That’s part of life.  That’s what you do.  You live and learn.  The only thing you kids have now is you have all the advantages that we didn’t have when I was going through it.  You guys are so damn much smarter than we were.  You really are.  You have so much more information.  And that’s a good thing.  But Hell, back then you just sort of went for it.  But hey man, it was a trip.  It was a trip.  A lot of people have asked me, “Would you do it again?”  I say, “Well shit, how in the Hell can you say?”  It made me be who I am today.  Yeah, I would do it again.  I would like to have a little more information, but Hell Yeah, shit.  If not, what in the Hell would you be doing?   So all in all it was a trip.  It was just a damn trip.  But Lance helped me immensely.  He just took me under his wing.  I just idolized him and tried to be just like him.  He’s from Arkansas and I’m from Oklahoma.  So we hooked up pretty good.  He helped me as much as he could.  But we all just went through it.  It was amazing what you don’t know as you look back from today’s level, from whatever is going on in pro football.  You just look back on Sid and whatever happened.  You know, Bum was such a great guy.  He was there the entire time I was there, as defensive coordinator.  It would have really been fun to play for someone that was really in touch with you.  And I don’t mean to put Sid down or anything.  He just wasn’t good for me.  Bum would have been great.  I would have loved to play for him.  Or Al Davis.  Those guys, my God.  All those old guys are with Al and are Raiders forever.  We just didn’t get that opportunity.  It’s just too damn bad you couldn’t hook up with the right team to your personality.  But basically once you’re done, you’re done.  When he calls you in and says you’re traded to the Denver Broncos, I just couldn’t believe it.  Anyway, that’s the way that whole trip pretty much went.

TT – Who were some of the guys that you hung out with on the team?  Who were some of your good friends?

DP – Lance.  Just because of the head-trips and stuff it didn’t…  But Lance.  But everybody there was great.  John.  Hadl was just an old Kansas boy.  He never professed to be anything fancy or anything.  Here I was shooting the stars and everything.  I just got sidetracked on it all.

TT – What is your favorite road trip memory?

DP – Road trip, I don’t have one really.  No, I don’t have any.  That’s just a damn shame.  I think all of us; we just didn’t have our identity.  I don’t think I was the only one that was going through all this stuff.  I think there were a lot of guys.  That’s just the way Sid kept you.  He just kept you tat way, on the edge all the time.  Anybody else would have had a bunch of fun trips and everything. But that was just the attitude.  I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it just wasn’t there.  I’m sorry.  They were all the same.  You went out and tried to do your job.  If we won then everybody was happy.  If you didn’t, and went in on Tuesday, then all the assistant coaches were pissed off at you.  Nobody wanted to talk to you.  That was just the deal.  That’s just the way that it was.

TT – Looking back now, what are your fondest memories of the Chargers?

DP – Just probably the accomplishment.  Just getting a little bit of what I had worked for all my life.  Don’t get me wrong.  I got a break in there.  That shit never would have happened if Paul Lowe hadn’t pulled his hamstring and Jim Allison didn’t get knocked out.  If I wasn’t the only guy left on the bench, then none of this shit would have happened.  You have to have a little bit of luck and a little bit of something for that to happen to you.  But how in the Hell could you think that from where I came from, and breaking in as a flanker…  I learned that whole damn offense in one week as a running back, which was pretty neat for me, because I had been a running back all my life.  But what the Hell would your chances be to have something happen like that for you?  Everything just happened and I was able to go ahead.  If one thing would have gone wrong there, I probably would have never shown up on the screen.  But it just happened that way.  If you are asking what my best accomplishment was, it would be leading the league in rushing.  Unfortunately, that was the year that Sid retired after about three-quarters of the way through the season.  But he had put me on the bench for five games prior to his retirement.  That was the year that I led the league in rushing.  But in the five games I gained a total of 68 yards or some damn thing.  I was perfectly healthy and could go out there and do it.  So actually I only had nine games and I got the damn rushing title.  Certainly that was my highlight, for sure.  But I just wonder what in the Hell I could have done in five more games.  If I had a chance to run…  That was back when they didn’t use your talent for exactly what they were supposed to.  Now you know how it is all specialized?  They have got a specialty for everybody.  But Hell, Sid had me blocking guys that were 290-pounds.  I am 193.  There was none of that stuff, that specialization.  But who in the Hell was I to day?  I was just happy they were trying to use me and my talent.  If I was used like they are now, as a specialty, the way things are going…  I was in there for three downs every damn time.  It wasn’t a one-down trip.  So all in all…  But I had fun.  I led the league in rushing.  And for a little kid coming where I came from, I think that was my highest accomplishment.  But I might go ahead and say that I see those guys now, like Butkus, and all the guys that were great.  All the guys that were really, really great…  Didn’t they all have the talent?  Didn’t they all have the size?  I always thought that as far as little running backs…  Of course we had our identity too.  But we were just little guys compared to.  I thinking, by God, you should have been all-pro.  Here we are just little guys.  We did our job.  Now I think it is just a little overshadowed by guys like Butkus.  I’m not saying anything bad, I am just saying my God, if you are 6’3” and 250 and run a 4.4-40, Hell yeah you ought to be all-pro.  How about us little guys compared to that.  You understand what I am saying?  Of course Deacon and all of them.  They were just born to be the best football players.  But we weren’t born that way.  We had to work our ass off to do the little things we could do.  So there is a comparison there.  I don’t think a lot of people really get that.  All these little guys that are doing what in the Hell they are doing are going up against guys that are twice their damn size.  Even today, number one they are the right size, the right speed.  They just unfortunately don’t have the right attitude these days, but my God.  They have got it all.  We had to work our ass off for it.  I just go God, Hell; I know they’re great, great players and everything.  My attitude on that is God Damn, they should have been great players because they were born for it and they had everything needed for it.  I would have loved to have been 6’1” and 220 and run a four flat.  Those kids now take it for granted that that is just the way that shit is.  I think, “Oh my God.  If you had just only known.”  I hope that helps you out.  It was a trip.  I did the best I could have done.  There was just a lot of luck and it had to happen the right time.  Obviously I had to have the talent or I couldn’t have done it.  But that’s just what happened back in the old days.

TT – Any other thoughts that strike you about the Chargers?  Things that you really remember but don’t often get to speak about?

DP – No, Hell no Todd.  You’re the first person I have talked to about this in I don’t know how many years.  It just seems like a different lifetime to me.  It has been over 30 years ago.  I have gone on with my life.  I have used a lot of that.  Obviously you use your experience.  But it’s always stayed with me.  But it actually seems like somebody else did all that stuff.  I get stuff in the mail all the time to sign autographs.  I just do it for free.  I send them back to them.  But that’s just a reminder.  One little part of your life.  I know you’re not that old yet.  When you get to be about 50 you’ll look back and say you talked to old Dickie Post and he’s just an old guy.  But that was then and now is now.  Everybody’s life changes.  I didn’t hang on to it.  I just never did.  The only thing I can say is whenever I quit, I quit.  In fact, old Bum, when I was watching the Super Bowl and they had an interview with him and he and I were just identical.  When he quit, he just quit.  I just am fortunate that I had another thing to go to.  I had to create that myself, but Bum.  I did this shit because I wanted to do it.  He had horses and I had no idea that’s what he was doing.  I did, but back then I didn’t.  Our lives pretty much parallel each other.  That’s what I went into is horses and stuff.  So we’re both pretty identical on that.  But neither one of us miss football.  I never miss football, not one damn bit.  You got to go on and create your own life.  That is just part of your deal.  You can’t hang on to that shit.  I know a lot of people do, a lot of the old players.  They just hang on to it.  I guess I just feel like it meant everything to me, but on the other hand I just went, “Aw shit.  I have got to get a hold of life.”  But talking to you is the most I’ve talked in probably 20 years.  So anyway, I hope this helps you.