The backstory to why the Seahawks have a punter they now call “Big Balls Dickson” begins in a place about as unexpected as the play that spawned the new nickname.
Michael Dickson was minding his own stuff a couple Sunday ago when Pete Carroll came up to him with an odd suggestion. Odd, considering they were not on a field. Or in a game or on the sideline. Or even in the Seahawks’ locker room.
The rookie punter and his coach were at the airport in London at the time, after Seattle’s blowout win over Oakland at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 14.
“And Pete came up to me and said, ‘When are you just going to run the ball?’” Dickson said.
The punter’s glib response?: “Whenever you ask me to.”
“Sometimes when there’s a gap, just take it,” Carroll told Dickson in the London airport.
“Then I told my special-teams coach (Brian Schneider),” Dickson said, “knowing he’d be so against the idea. And he was.
“I told him and he said, ‘No! Don’t ever do that!’”
Carroll and Schneider didn’t ask Dickson to do anything but run out of the end zone for an intentional safety on fourth down with 2:18 left in Sunday’s game at Detroit. The Seahawks were leading 28-14. The coaches decided Dickson would take the safety to keep Seattle up by two touchdowns late. That was preferred over risking a blocked punt and Lions touchdown or Detroit getting good field position to score one, since Dickson was lined up to punt along the back line of the end zone.
Instead, Dickson ignored Carroll’s and Schneider’s instructions. And common sense.
He took off running. He freelanced around right end.
Carroll’s reaction as Dickson took off: “A few” expletives, the coach said.
But the expletives turned to superlatives as DIckson ran free on fourth and 8 for 9 yards, to the Seahawks 12-yard line. Dickson’s audacious first down allowed the Seahawks’ offense to run out all by the final 6 seconds of the team’s fourth victory in five games.
“You mean Aussie Sweep?” Carroll said of the play.
“I thought Mike was smiling as he turned the corner and he knew he could make the first down. He knew he was going to have to take a hit and he was thinking about taking care of the football. It was an incredibly beautiful play. Sometimes you have to improvise, and really good players seem to do it at the right time.”
So there’s another reason the Seahawks traded up in this spring’s draft to select Dickson, the former Australian Rules Football player from age 8 to 18 growing up there, in the fifth round.
To have the absolutely ridiculous turn into the sublime.
“I thought it was awesome. I can’t love a play more than that,” Carroll said. “It was like he went against all tradition, all thinking and everything. But he saw a situation and he took advantage of it. And I think that’s what great players do, and they surprise you sometimes. That was truly a surprise. That was a great moment and I was really fired up for him.”
Dickson had a smile as goofy as his play while seated at his locker 30 minutes after the game ended.
“As soon as I started (running) I was like, there was no backing out now. Just go for it,” Dickson said.
“This is probably a bad thing to say: I didn’t really know how many yards we had (to go for the first down), until I got there and crossed it and said ‘All right, I’m good. I’m good. Thanks.’
“A couple more yards. And then I just got smoked,” he said, chuckling.
“But it was fun.”
The bold play, on top of his booming, directional punts he often seems to hand-place on the sideline deep in opposition territory and his swashbuckling, Aussie accent, are turning Dickson into something of a locker-room legend with the Seahawks.
Teammates were marveling at Dickson’s bravado in the locker room over the thumping bass rap music after the win Sunday.
“Michael Dickson,” Seahawks touchdown-making wide receiver David Moore said, using a word rarely used for a punter, “he’s amazing.”