DeBartolo Sports Instructor Joe Dickinson Having Huge Impact on College Football

Andre JohnsonContributor IIIMay 20, 2014

Rafe Peavey of Arkansas is one of the many quarterbacks who trained under Joe Dickinson.
Rafe Peavey of Arkansas is one of the many quarterbacks who trained under Joe Dickinson.Credit: 247Sports

For Joe Dickinson, New Year’s Day essentially is a time of reflection.

Among the reasons is that he has the luxury of watching a number of the nation’s premier quarterbacks, many of whom he trained intensely long before they entered the collegiate ranks.

“You’re just happy that you can give something back to the game,” Dickinson told Bleacher Report during a recent telephone interview from Jacksonville, Florida. “It makes you feel very proud obviously. It makes you feel you’re still a part of the game. I stay in touch with a lot of them.”

Having served as quarterbacks coach for several high-profile coaches during his well-publicized tenure on the sideline, Dickinson is currently the lead quarterback instructor and camp director for DeBartolo Sports University, a position he’s held since 2007. He frequently conducts quarterback camps and private training nationwide. And since 2007, he has trained more than 1,100 quarterbacks, ranging from amateurs to professionals.

Since joining DeBartolo Sports, Dickinson, 57, has had a profound impact on a plethora of up-and-coming quarterbacks, many of whom ultimately signed national letters of intent with major Division I programs.

This year was no exception. The quarterback coaching guru trained an assortment of America’s most sought-after passers in the 2014 class.

So far, at least seven high school quarterbacks who trained under Dickinson at DeBartolo Sports have inked with major colleges: David Cornwell (Alabama), Rafe Peavey (Arkansas), Landon Root (Northern Illinois), Travis Smith (Wake Forest), Colin Feller (Miami, Fla.), Tristan Threatt (Harvard) and Alexander Diamont (Indiana).

His class of 2015 quarterbacks appears promising, considering Shawnee (Okla.) High highly touted prospect John Jacobs III last week made a verbal commitment to play at East Carolina University next fall.

So how to explain the continuous success of Dickinson, who—according to former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Randy Crosshas had a major impact on the way that today's collegiate game is played?

For starters, Dickinson, a Wayne, Oklahoma, native, has enjoyed a career where he has been afforded opportunities to work alongside college football's finest coaches, most notably former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning coach Barry Switzer. Dickinson served as a graduate assistant to Switzer from 1983 to 1985 during which he helped the Sooners to the 1985 national title.

“I’m a big fan of the way Joe coaches and handles quarterbacks,” said Cross, whose son, Brendan, trained under Dickinson before playing quarterback for Wake Forest. “There are people who have PR firms and all sorts of sponsors and stuff for quarterbacks. But the way Joe does it, he has invented the new way to throw. He knows it from a fundamental standpoint, from a mechanical standpoint.”

Cross, who starred for the 49ers and won three Super Bowls between 1976 and 1988, also said Dickinson’s contributions are still impacting the way the college game is played today, although he doesn’t remotely assist college coaches.

“College football coaches are recruiters,” Cross said. “They don’t have time to coach guys up. So they need guys like Joe Dickinson. He can help with footwork. He can help with throwing. He can help with film study, especially for young players who must know how defenses are set up. I think his insight is unique.”

Prior to joining the DeBartolo Sports staff, Dickinson enjoyed a prosperous collegiate coaching career that spanned nearly three decades.

From 1986 to 1989, he was the running backs coach at the University of Tulsa before assuming an offensive coordinator position at Marshall University in 1990. Consequently, he took his play-calling skills to nearby Northern Illinois, where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1991 to 1995, which allowed him to oversee the nation’s leading rusher, LeShon Johnson, who amassed 1,976 yards on 327 carries while finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Dickinson moved back to his native Oklahoma in 1996 for a second stint with the Sooners. He started as the running backs coach from 1996 to 1997 before being promoted to offensive coordinator for the 1998 season. To his credit, he helped the Sooners to their best finish since 1995, but he left the program four seasons later after the arrival of OU's current coach, Bob Stoops.

Dickinson later accepted a running backs coaching position at Tulane before joining the staff at Central Oklahoma from 2003 to 2006.

Having devoted a majority of his life to helping enhance the lives of athletes, Dickinson has never grown tired of his craft as arguably one of the best quarterback coaching minds in the game.

“I’ve played (football) in high school and college and I’ve always wanted to coach,” Dickinson said. “I’ve never thought of it as a job. It’s a great sport. It’s allowed me to do a lot for kids. It’s the best sport that teaches the lessons of how life is.”

Dickinson, one of the sport's brightest minds, relishes football, especially when he’s watching the annual New Year’s Day bowl games.


Andre Johnson, a senior writer for MemphiSport, is a regular contributor for Bleacher Report. To reach Johnson, email him at Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.