SAWMILLS — He’s earned elite honors at every football level he has reached, and now South Caldwell alum Landon Dickerson is on the sport’s biggest stage.
Dickerson, starting right guard for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, suits up on Feb. 12 for Super Bowl LVII versus the AFC champ Kansas City Chiefs in Glendale, Arizona.
Cameron Wright was a South teammate of Dickerson, and went on to play linebacker at Elon University.
“These guys are built different, and they’re destined to be great,” Wright said at the high school on Thursday. “Playing beside him, I could tell something was special about him. You just don’t see somebody that’s 6-foot-5 and a half, 330 pounds, running like he did and moving like he did. He’s definitely a special guy.”
James Reed is the long-time offensive line coach for the Spartans. A Hickory native, Dickerson transferred during the 2014 season to South Caldwell.
“It’s pretty obvious, he had a gift,” Reed said. “You can’t teach 6-foot-5, 290 pounds as a junior. You also have that feeling that he’s going to go further, is the mentality. He is very intelligent.”
South coach Casey Justice was on the staff then, in charge of the offensive backfield.
“A vivid memory was the week previous when he was at Hickory, before he came to us, is watching and breaking down that film and wondering how in the heck we were going to block him,” Justice said. “We got lucky that game, and did some things offensively that hurt them a little bit. Then fast forward two weeks later and he’s in our office up there.
“That was interesting, to say the least. Then just how quickly he picked up the scheme. In two to three weeks he had most of our stuff down. I thought that was really impressive, just his attention to detail and how smart he was. ”
Dickerson has been selected to the upcoming Pro Bowl, though since he is in the big game will have to take a pass.
“I knew about Landon, when we played against him when he was at Hickory,” Wright said. “Then just seeing that caliber of athlete, playing against him, and then the next week he’s on our team just seeing that in person — that’s was a crazy opportunity playing with that caliber of athlete.”
The 24-year-old Dickerson is in his second season in the NFL, after being drafted in the 2021 draft’s second round by the Eagles. An injury to a veteran teammate early in his rookie season allowed Dickerson to move into the starting lineup.
More from this section
“Within in a week, he could run any offensive play we had,” Reed said. “His mentality, he’s very intelligent, and he picks up really fast. I knew when he went to Florida State for a couple of years, and then Alabama — so he had the ability to grasp whatever system.
“You watch him in the NFL, his very first season … obviously that speed’s a little bit different, but he caught it, dealt with it and was able to overcome that.”
Dickerson now takes the field at a strapping 333 pounds, standing 6-6.
“He made me better as an individual to help my recruitment as well,” Wright said. “Just getting an eye on that guy, and the natural talent he has and his work ethic, that showed me and opened my eyes that next level is completely different.”
Dickerson had an injury-ridden career at Florida State. Following graduation, he moved onto Alabama for his final two collegiate campaigns when he was switched from guard to center.
“Obviously, the odds are against everybody,” Reed said. “There’s a very small percentage who make it to that level, but he did present those traits.”
For the Crimson Tide, Dickerson was a member of the 2020 national championship team. He reaped All-America honors and was awarded the Remington Trophy for the nation’s top center.
“Me and Landon were very close,” Justice said. “I took him on his first visit to Florida State, and being with him through that period at Florida State with the injuries, that was the only thing I ever doubted if he was going to be healthy enough.”
When a week Sunday rolls around, watch for Dickerson dealing out that protection for quarterback Jalen Hurts — who has enjoyed his most productive season to date.
“Playing with Landon — that size, the speed, the strength,” Wright said. “You just don’t see that every day. You probably won’t see that come through here again.”
Reed was quick to mention that credit also is owed to the parents.
“He had that God gift, but he also had that work ethic that Jim and Michelle instilled in him,” Reed said. “That was obvious he was going to work that gift, and you’re not going to out-work him. He has that discipline and work ethic, to take that gift to the next level — and he’s obviously done that. That’s evident.”