Former Oklahoma football player Rickey Dixon died Saturday at the age of 53, the school announced. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2013.
Dixon starred for the Sooners from 1984-87, totaling 16 career interceptions, including eight in 1987 when he was named a consensus All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
He also helped the 1985 Oklahoma team win a national championship after an 11-1 season.
Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer praised his former player while announcing the news of his death:
Barry Switzer @Barry_Switzer
I’m sorry to announce 3 o’clock this afternoon passing of Ricky Dixon! he died in his home in De Soto Texas with his family around him! He was inducted into college football Hall of Fame this past year! He was one of the greatest players ever played the Sooners! @OU_Football
Dixon became the No. 5 overall pick in the 1988 draft to the Cincinnati Bengals, playing 15 games during his first season for a squad that reached the Super Bowl. He played five years with the team while tallying six interceptions.
The Texas native played one more season with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993 before retiring from the NFL. He coached high school football and had a landscaping company following his playing career.
After being diagnosed with ALS in 2013, he was awarded $4.5 million as part of a class-action lawsuit against the NFL for hiding the effects of concussions, per Dave Wilson of ESPN.
As Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione noted, Dixon remained upbeat even after his diagnosis:
"As much as any of his accomplishments on the field, however, he should be remembered for his extreme courage and spirit of perseverance. Overcoming the daily physical struggles he faced the last several years is a testament to his determination, to his resolve and to his fighter's mentality, as well as to those closest to him who provided so much loving support."
Dixon was honored during an Oklahoma game in 2019 and was given a standing ovation.