MALIBU, Calif. (BVM) – Back when he was playing football, Corey Dillon was used to making headlines. Whether it was for his lone stellar season at the University of Washington, setting the NFL record for rushing yards in a single game or winning Super Bowl XXXIX with the New England Patriots, Dillon had many football accomplishments that thrust him into the spotlight during his career.
However, now over 15 years removed from his final regular season game, Dillon lives a quiet life away from the game where he rarely earns a mention in the news and that’s how he likes it. With the recent announcement that he is one of 129 former NFL players to be named a Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 nominee, Dillon has made a return to headlines as people debate whether this Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion is worthy of a call to the hall.
Early life and high school football
Dillon was born and raised in Seattle the youngest of three brothers who introduced the youngster to football. While Dillon excelled in the sport, off the field, he had trouble with the law throughout his youth which would cause some problems in his future.
A standout athlete, Dillon attended Franklin High School in the city where he became a star. By the time he left high school, Dillon was an all-metro, all-state and Parade All-American running back and was named the Metro League Player of the Year in 1992. He was also an all-metro baseball player and was even selected by the San Diego Padres in the 1993 MLB Draft. He was elected into the Seattle Public Schools Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
While he could’ve pursued a career on the diamond, Dillon’s first love was football. However, despite his skills, Dillon had a hard time finally making it to a relevant college football program.
College football career
Due to his off-the-field issues, Division I programs weren’t heavily interested in the running back, but that was a moot point as Dillon also performed poorly on the ACT preventing him from meeting the academic requirements for many schools. Instead, Dillon attended Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington, but left the school after only one month.
Pursuing another route on the gridiron, Dillon went to Garden City Community College in Kansas, but difficulties with the coaching staff and team ended in his dismissal. With one last chance, Dillon moved to Dixie College in St. George, Utah where he recommitted himself to the game and the classroom. This decision would send Dillon on a collision course to the NFL.
At Dixie (now Utah Tech), Dillon rushed for 1,899 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns on 279 carries during the 1995 season, earning Junior College Offensive Back of the Year honors from College Sports magazine. With improved grades, Dillon was also able to transfer back home to the University of Washington where he would have one of the best single seasons in program history.
Dillon was a force for the Washington Huskies during the 1996 season. The running back rushed for a then-program record 1,695 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns, a record he still holds today. Dillon was named a first–team All-American following the campaign and, despite being a Heisman favorite for the 1997 season, decided to enter the 1997 NFL Draft after his junior season.
Off-the-field concerns caused Dillon to slip in the draft from the first round to the second round. However, seeing his talent, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Dillon with their second-round pick, No. 43 overall. This decision paid off quickly for both Dillon and the Bengals.
Dillon started his NFL career with six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 1999-2001. In the middle of those seasons, Dillon also set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game when he rushed for 278 yards against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 22, 2000. His record was broken by Jamal Lewis in 2003.
278 RUSHING YARDS.
Corey Dillon ran wild on the Broncos in 2000, breaking the NFL single-game rushing record that had stood for 23 years.
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) December 1, 2018
Over seven seasons with the Bengals, Dillon rushed for 8,061 yards and 45 touchdowns while recording 192 catches for 1,482 yards and four more scores. He finished his Bengals career rushing leader, a record he still holds to this day.
In April 2004, Dillon was traded from Cincinnati to the New England Patriots for a second-round pick. During his first season with the Patriots, the 30-year-old running back showed he had plenty left in the tank as he rushed for a franchise-record 1,635 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns on his way to another Pro Bowl selection. That year, New England went on to win the Super Bowl as Dillon rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in Super Bowl XXIX.
Unfortunately, Dillon’s bruising running style in his early years in the NFL caused him to suffer more injuries during the later part of his career and he began to see the field less frequently for the Pats in 2005-06 even though the team made the playoffs both years. Following the 2006 season, Dillon retired after 10 NFL seasons, rushing for 11,241 career yards and 82 rushing touchdowns with 89 total touchdowns. His 11,241 rushing yards for a career are still the 20th most in NFL history.
Corey Dillon appreciation post.
— NFL Legacy (@NFLLegacy) August 26, 2021
Retirement and post-playing life
Unlike other retired athletes, fans won’t find Dillon in a broadcast booth or even on social media. He’s not making the same headlines he used to when he was in the NFL. While he is not in the sports world as much, Dillon likes his life away from fame.
“My thing is staying off the grid,” Dillon told the Dave Lapham In The Trenches podcast. “I just like living a normal life. There isn’t anything too special about what I’ve been doing. I’m doing father stuff and just being me. I like my peace and quiet.”
The former running back has three daughters, all in athletics. His oldest daughter Cameron recently graduated from the University of Southern California following a career on the Washington State volleyball team and the Trojans women’s rowing team.
“My oldest just graduated from USC, she was on the row team, played volleyball, etcetera,” Dillon said in the podcast. “My middle child, she’s a cheerleader at Sierra Canyon. My youngest is a volleyball player as well, on a travel team, and she also attends Sierra Canyon School. They’re all athletic. The thing about it is they’re super smart and I don’t care about them being athletic, I care about them being book smart and they are.”
With his nomination into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dillon will wait to see if he will get a bust in the building’s hallowed halls. As one of the best running backs of the early 21st century, fans will be eagerly waiting for Clock Killin’ Corey Dillon’s name to finally be called.