BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb University introduced Ron Dickerson, Jr., as head coach of its football program Wednesday morning.
“Today signals an exciting, new era of Gardner-Webb football,” said Gardner-Webb president Dr. Frank Bonner. “Ron Dickerson, Jr., is a tremendous fit for this University and community. His charisma, commitment to spiritual development and excellent track record as an assistant coach on the highest level of college football provided clear proof of Coach Dickerson as the quintessential leader for the student-athletes involved in our football program.”
Dickerson, 39, comes to Boiling Springs after spending the past three seasons as receivers coach at Ole Miss – playing a key role in the development of current NFL players Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh Steelers), Dexter McCluster (Kansas City Chiefs) and Shay Hodge (Cincinnati Bengals). All three earned All-SEC honors with Dickerson’s guidance, and Wallace has established himself as one of the top receivers in the National Football League – and will play for the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV on February 6.
During his three seasons with the Rebels, Dickerson helped one of his mentors, Houston Nutt, direct the squad to a pair of top-20 finishes, two nine-win seasons and consecutive wins in the AT&T Cotton Bowl – knocking off No. 8 Texas Tech following the 2008 season and No. 21 Oklahoma State the following year. In 2008, Ole Miss posted key wins over the previous two seasons’ national champions – beating No. 4 Florida and No. 18 LSU on the road.
“This search led us to the right man to direct our program,” said GWU Vice President for Athletics Chuck Burch. “Ron has an excellent reputation for grooming young men into leaders on and off the field. Gardner-Webb University is a unique, special place and Ron quickly rose to the top during an extensive national search. We share the same vision for this program – to compete very quickly for the Big South Conference championship, but also to do so in a manner that honors Christ and the values which anchor our University.”
Dickerson is the first African-American head coach in the Big South Conference’s football history. He is the eighth head coach in 41 seasons of senior college football at Gardner-Webb. The Boley, Okla., native replaces Steve Patton, who spent 14 seasons with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
“To have the opportunity to become a part of such a great University and community is truly a blessing,“ said Dickerson. “Our teams will play fast, physical and with energy and intelligence on the field. Our young men will also handle themselves properly off it. My job as head coach is not only to win games here, but to mentor and develop our student-athletes into well-rounded men – spiritually, academically and socially.”
Prior to Ole Miss, Dickerson spent three seasons at Louisiana-Monroe (2005-2007) and three seasons at FCS member Missouri State (2002-2004). With ULM, he coached Calvin Dawson to first-team All-Sun
Belt honors and a 1,000-yard season. At Missouri State, he saw pupil Cody Pratt post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Dickerson also spent time as an assistant coach at Alabama State (1997-1999) and Temple (1996-1997) and served as head coach at Fairfield High in Birmingham, Ala., during the 2000 season.
In the professional ranks, Dickerson picked up valuable experience as an intern in 2001 under Coach Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and as the running backs and special teams coach for the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws in 2000. He coached future Carolina Panther Rod Smart during his time with the Outlaws.
Dickerson’s success as a coach should not come as a surprise, as he excelled on the gridiron at the game’s highest levels as a player. He played in 15 games over two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, seeing his most extensive time as a kick returner – averaging 22 yards per return on 32 kickoffs during that time. Dickerson also spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles (1995) and the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe (1996-1997).
Dickerson starred at the University of Arkansas from 1989-1992, starting his career at running back before transitioning to receiver. He led the Razorbacks in receptions in 1991 and 1992 and finished his career with 2,355 all-purpose yards. His kickoff return ability still has Dickerson squarely in the Arkansas record books, with his average of 25.0 yards on 31 career returns ranking third in school history. Dickerson also lettered for the Razorbacks’ 1990 NCAA Indoor National Championship Track & Field squad as a jumper. He graduated in 1996 with a degree in Public and Commerical Recreation from Arkansas.
Dickerson earned All-America honors in both football and track at State College (Pa.) High, and was ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 overall prospects on the gridiron and as one of the most sought after running backs in the nation in the Class of 1989.
Football is a family affair for Dickerson. His father, Ron Dickerson, Sr., is woven deeply into the historic fabric of the game, having played as a defensive back for the Miami Dolphins during their historic, undefeated season in 1972 and becoming the first African-American head coach in Division I-A when he took over at Temple in 1992.
In addition to his coaching duties, the younger Dickerson is the founder and president of R.U.N.T – Recognizing Underdeveloped Natural Talents, a youth organization designed to improve opportunities for young people in and out of athletics.
Dickerson and his wife, Kendreah, have two daughters, Kristen and Ashten, and a son, Keegan.