By Blaidd Drwg
One of the cool things about being a sports card collector is that the cards remind you of things that you have long forgotten. I recently came across a 1988 Topps Rushing Leaders card, highlighting the 1987 season. Did you know that there were only 2 running backs that ran for 1000 yards that year (it was only a 15 game season due to a strike and most players only appeared in 12 games since 3 of them were played with mostly replacement players – about 15 % of the league did cross the picket lines)?
The 2 running backs? Eric Dickerson and Charles White. Charles White led the NFL with just under 1400 yards and Dickerson was second with just under 1300.
The story gets a bit more bizarre – White was actually Dickerson’s backup. Here is how that happened. Dickerson started the season as the Rams #1 RB, with White as his backup. After the 2nd week of the season, most of the players went on strike, but some crossed the picket lines to keep playing. Dickerson stayed away, White crossed the picket line. White became the starter. After an inauspicious debut of 9 carries for 18 yards, White busted out in week 4 with 166 yards vs. the Steelers. Charles White had, up until that point, managed 1 – 100 yard game and just 1400 yards in his 6+ year NFL career. He tore off another 100 yard game in Week 5 and then the strike ended. Dickerson was back for week 6, had about half as many carries as White in the game and then was summarily traded to the Colts. In case you don’t remember 1987, Eric Dickerson was the best RB on the planet, having just run for 1800 yards in 1986 and he was just 27 years old. With Dickerson gone, White retained the starting role and reeled off 5 more 100 yard games. Dickerson in the meantime, got off to a slow start with the Colts, but then managed to average 122 yards a game for the rest of the season to not only finish second in the league in total rushing yards, but to lead the AFC in rushing yards despite having played 3 games less than Curt Warner.
Dickerson would have just 2 more great seasons before turning into a pumpkin at age 30. Charles White would manage just 323 more yards in the NFL, getting hurt early in 1988 and losing his starting job to Greg Bell before retiring.