Corey Dillon was one of the most bruising running backs in National Football League history.
He ran with reckless abandon. He didn’t care who stood in his way.
Plowing through the opposition playing concrete football in the streets of Seattle made him a tough and hard-nosed football player.
Dillon finished his impressive 10-year NFL career with 11,241 rushing yards and 82 touchdowns – two of the highest totals in league history.
Regretfully, Dillon hasn’t been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet.
Should that day come, Corey Dillon will serve notice he was one of the greatest running backs who set foot on the gridiron.
Corey James Dillon was born in Seattle, WA on October 24, 1974.
Dillon grew up in a seedy part of Seattle. His mother Jerline raised him and his brothers in a single-parent home.
When Dillon was 15 years old, he was convicted for conspiracy to sell cocaine to undercover police.
In a March 2001 interview with SI.com’s Jeffri Chadiha, Dillon denied his involvement in narcotics transactions during his adolescent years.
Dillon told the “Dave Lapham In The Trenches” Podcast in October 2021 he and his brothers played “rough football” – the kind of football played on concrete – during their formative years.
That brand of football made Corey Dillon the bruising, mack truck-type of runner he was in the National Football League.
Below is a photo of Seattle @NFL legend Corey Dillon born & raised in Seattle Corey attended Franklin Highschool, and @UW he also went on to win the 2005 super bowl alongside the @Patriots pic.twitter.com/nxShE3xJuj
— WeareRainier (@WeareRainier) April 11, 2019
Dillon was a two-sport star at Franklin High School in The Emerald City. He excelled in baseball and football.
He became the Metro League Player of the Year in 1992.
Dillon earned All-American and All-Metro running back honors from Parade Magazine at the end of his high school football career.
The San Diego Padres drafted Dillon in the 34th round of the 1993 Draft as a catcher.
While Dillon was a good baseball player, he felt his heart was on the football field.
He had to go through the proverbial eye of the needle in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days With The Washington Huskies
Corey Dillon’s college football career didn’t start off on a high note.
Since he didn’t meet the NCAA’s minimum academic requirements, he didn’t find any takers among Division I football programs.
Instead, Dillon enrolled at Edmonds Community College in Lynwood, WA.
Dillon wanted to suit up for the school’s baseball team. However, the daily 90-minute bus ride from his home took it’s toll on him so he quit just six weeks after enrolling, per SI.com.
Dillon spent most of the following year at home. His mother Jerline encouraged him to work as a night janitor instead of lazing around the house.
Her son got fed up with the job after just two months.
“I can’t live like this, Mama,” Dillon told his mother (via SI.com).
Dillon then took his act some 1,700 miles southeast to Garden City Community College in Kansas.
He made some strides playing running back and safety for Garden City Broncbusters head football coach Jeff Leiker.
He had 1,165 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Broncbusters in the 1994 season.
Unfortunately, Dillon’s habitual absences from classes and off-field shenanigans forced Leiker to kick him off the football team.
Despite parting ways with the troubled Dillon, Leiker reached out to the coaches at Dixie College in St. George, UT and put in a good word for him.
“Corey was a guy who wanted to succeed but didn’t know how,” Leiker told SI.com in March 2001. “He was also the kind of guy that you wanted to help.”
Broncbusters defensive coordinator Bob Larson told Chadiha that Dillon’s aggressive nature off the field proved to be his undoing. He habitually finished fights somebody else started.
Super Bowl fact: The last time the Pats met the Eagles in the Super Bowl a DSU alumni was playing running back for New England. Corey Dillon played for Dixie State College in 1995, rushing for 1899 yards and 20 TD that year. He had 18 carries for 75 yards and a TD in SB XXXIX pic.twitter.com/XDvp0luqbd
— Kyle (@KyleDSN) February 4, 2018
When Dillon transferred to Dixie State College, he realized his dream of playing in the National Football League hung in the balance, so he changed his ways.
Dillon brought his homework with him every time the team was on the road. Better yet, he went the extra mile every time during practice.
The results were astonishing: Dillon had 1,899 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns for the Dixie State Trailblazers in the 1995 season.
College Sports magazine named Dillon its JC Offensive Back of the Year in 1995.
After Dillon made a name for himself at Dixie College, he returned to the Pacific Northwest and transferred to the University of Washington.
Dillon had always wanted to don Washington Huskies Purple and Gold.
He made the most of his opportunity in his hometown of Seattle. Dillon had 1,555 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 271 carries in the 1996 NCAA season.
In Dillon’s lone season with the Huskies, Jim Lambright’s crew finished with a 9-3 win-loss record.
Dillon tore up the UCLA Bruins defense for five touchdowns in a resounding 41-21 win on October 19, 1996.
Dillon’s 198 all-purpose yards earned him Sports Illustrated National Player of the Week honors.
He had 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 13th-ranked Washington’s 33-21 loss to the eighth-ranked Colorado Buffaloes in the 1996 Holiday Bowl.
Dillon earned First Team All-American honors in 1996.
For a while, it seemed Corey Dillon’s dream of making it to the National Football League was a long shot.
After making amends on the gridiron as his college football career progressed, he was now closer to making that dream a reality.
Pro Football Career
The Cincinnati Bengals made Corey Dillon the 43rd overall selection of the 1997 NFL Draft.
When Dillon didn’t hear NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue call his name during the first ten selections, he fretted and fumed.
Dillon locked himself inside his room and wept like a baby. He didn’t come out until the following morning.
“He thought it was the end of the world,” his brother Curtis told SI.com in 2001.
Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason made Dillon his protege. He thought the rookie running back had the makings of a superstar, per Chadiha:
“I saw a kid who was going to be a superstar. He had the instincts, the ability and the raw talent to play what is physically the toughest position in football.”
“But I also saw someone who was impatient, who wanted everything right now.”
Apparently, Corey Dillon hadn’t completely turned over a new leaf during his first few years in the National Football League.
Seattle authorities arrested Dillon for driving under the influence in March 1998. He pleaded guilty to negligent driving and was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Two-and-a-half months later, Seattle police charged him with fourth-degree assault for arguing with his wife Desiree inside their car. They had been married for just six months.
Despite Corey Dillon’s troubles off the field, he made the effort to turn his life around.
He ran a free one-week football camp for inner-city kids in the Seattle area.
Dillon also stopped drinking and smoking after “a religious awakening” (in Chadiha’s words) in April 1999.
Desiree Dillon told Si.com the birth of their daughter Cameron made him more of a softie.
December 4, 1997: Sunday Night Football. Bengals 41 Oilers 14.
Bengals backup QB @7BOOMERESIASON Esiason (in his final NFL Season): 20/28 245yds 1TD
Corey Dillon: 39 carries 246 yards (sets Single-game NFL Rookie record) 4TDs pic.twitter.com/k5KCB0XeQc
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) December 4, 2020
The Bengals gave him a plaque for his record-breaking 246-yard game against the then-Tennessee Oilers as a rookie in 1997.
Corey Dillon also holds the franchise rookie record with 1,129 rushing yards in the 1997 NFL season.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame prominently displays his cleats, pants, and jersey from that game in Canton, OH.
Dillon told the Cincinnati Enquirer the plaque is one of his favorite mementos from his playing days on the gridiron.
“I clean that thing off every other day,” Dillon beamed. “That’s one of my favorite items that I have. It never gets old to me. Every time I go into my man cave and I look at it, it brings back that memory.”
In the months leading up to Dillon’s one-year, $3 million contract extension in August 2000, he told a Seattle radio station he “would rather flip burgers” than return to Cincinnati, per Chadiha.
— Red Sleeves (10-6) (@MistahJ_74) December 31, 2016
Dillon also took shots at the Bengals organization. He told the radio station (via SI.com) Bengals fans “should feel cheated and betrayed.”
The Bengals had averaged a measly five wins per season in the three years Dillon suited up for them before he made the controversial on-air comments.
It seemed Corey Dillon also had a reclusive side.
Shortly before Dillon’s one-year contract extension with the Bengals was about to expire in 2001, the 25-year-old running back told Chadiha he wanted to get a house in a secluded area.
“I want a big house in a secluded area. I’ve seen places in Cincinnati and in other cities that are very nice. Wherever I go, I’ll get a home I can escape to and have my peace.”
While the Bengals continued miring in mediocrity in Dillon’s next three years in Cincinnati, he played a high level for the most part.
Dillon set a then-NFL record of 278 rushing yards in a game against the Denver Broncos on October 22, 2000.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) May 1, 2020
He eclipsed the great Walter Payton’s previous record by three yards. Payton’s record stood for twenty-three years.
Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis surpassed Dillon’s mark with 295 rushing yards almost three years later.
Dillon’s tenure in Cincinnati ended on a sour note as he had only 541 yards in the 2003 NFL season – head coach Marvin Lewis’ first – due to injury.
The Bengals granted his demand to be traded when they dealt him to the New England Patriots for a second-round draft choice in 2004.
Corey Dillon departed Cincinnati as the team’s all-time leading rusher (8,061 rushing yards). He also has the most number of carrier attempts (1,865) and 100-yard games (28).
Dillon started his career in New England like a house on fire.
He had 1,635 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in the 2004 NFL season. The Patriots had a gaudy 14-2 win-loss record that year.
With Dillon in tow, New England won its second consecutive Super Bowl crown.
Dillon told Lapham in October 2021 Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was one of the funniest people he’d ever known:
“People don’t know how funny he is. He’s really funny. I know he might come off for the media and give off a different energy but inside, in the meeting rooms, he’s hilarious. For real.”
“He had me laughing all the time and the respect about him, he’s up front. He’s cutthroat. He’s gonna let you know exactly where you are, where you stand, and he’s not gonna blow smoke at you. He’s direct which I respect a lot.”
The Bill Belichick moment that cracked Corey Dillon up the most was the team meeting prior to Super Bowl XXXIX.
“He said, ‘You know what?” Dillon told Lapham. “Don’t be the one to f— this up. (laughs)”
Dillon sure didn’t.
His two-yard plunge into the end zone broke a 14-all tie early in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 106 all-purpose yards.
The Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, 24-21.
Corey Dillon earned his first and only Super Bowl ring.
An ecstatic Dillon poured out his emotions to The Boston Globe’s Jim McCabe in the game’s aftermath:
“I thought I would cry. I don’t know how to act. Maybe later tonight.”
“I knew we would win a lot of football games and this game was always in the back of my mind. I don’t know how to feel. But I know I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.”
The one and only Corey dillon celebrating the pats Super Bowl win pic.twitter.com/HjRDcnAJJZ
— Title Town Pics (@thetown_617) September 18, 2013
More than twelve years after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX, Dillon told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner, Jr. he had taken out his Super Bowl ring just two or three times from his safe.
It was a stark contrast to how he took care of the plaque the Bengals gave him for his record-setting game as a rookie almost eight years earlier.
Dillon’s injury issues and reduced carries (he split them with rookie Laurence Maroney) in 2006 reduced his rushing yardage production significantly over the next two seasons.
Nonetheless, he had a combined 25 touchdowns in those two years.
A month-and-a-half after New England lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots released Corey Dillon.
Five months later, Dillon told the Boston Globe he was hanging up his cleats.
He entertained thoughts of a comeback after Patriots running back Sammy Morris came down with a season-ending injury.
However, he decided to remain retired.
Re-tweet from NFL Throwback 💬,"……. Corey Dillon appreciation post.
— DFS Prime Lineups (@DFSPrimeLineups) August 26, 2021
Corey Dillon, a four-time Pro Bowler, is currently 20th all-time in career rushing yards (11,241).
His 82 career rushing touchdowns are the 18th-most in NFL history. Dillon’s 2,618 rushing attempts rank him 22nd all-time.
It has been 15 years since Corey Dillon played his final down in the National Football League.
On the basis of stats alone, one could argue he’s a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However, could his lengthy off-field troubles possibly hinder him from getting that coveted gold jacket in Canton?
If that were the case, it would be a shame considering Corey Dillon was one of the best running backs the NFL has seen in recent memory.
When The Athletic’s Jay Morrison asked Dillon his take on his call-up to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the latter chimed in:
“My perception is that these guys voting are writers who probably never covered me, probably never even seen me play. So it’s kind of skewed voting-wise.”
“But I’m seeing guys in there with less stats than I got. So I’m trying to figure it out, is it voting or they just don’t like me? And I came to a conclusion: it’s both (laughs).”
Corey Dillon currently resides in the Los Angeles, CA area.
He has three daughters with his ex-wife Desiree Antoine-Dillon, who filed for divorce in April 2010.
It was a double whammy for Dillon, who was busted for DUI in Malibu the same month.
A month later, police arrested him on suspicion of assaulting his ex-wife. He was eventually released on a $50,000 bail.
Dillon’s daughters have athletic backgrounds. He told Lapham two of them played volleyball during their college days. The middle daughter was a cheerleader.
Dillon is enshrined in the SPS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Since retiring from the National Football League at the end of the 2006 NFL season, Dillon hadn’t reached out to the Bengals organization until the summer of 2017.
Back then, Dillon said he had no ill will toward the Bengals. He even said he wished he would’ve won a Super Bowl title with them:
“I am a grown man. I can admit when I’m wrong. I did some stuff that was not cool, okay? Not cool at all.”
“But hey, at the end of the day I got the end result that I wanted. That was to play on a stage and actually winning a Super Bowl. Do I wish it would have been with them? Absolutely. It didn’t work out that way. I don’t have no ill will toward nobody there.”
Dillon, who isn’t on social media, confirmed a Twitter account named @Corey28Dillon wasn’t him at all. It belonged to an impostor.
Dillon’s Cincinnati Bengals teammate Willie Anderson tweeted out the former’s response on his behalf in December 2018.
Had to get the Real Corey Dillon to tell the people that @Corey28Dillon is not him. Probably same dude that had the fake Rudi Johnson account last year. #Bengals #Patriots #BestBengalsplayerEver #Whodey pic.twitter.com/FSmpHjX27T
— Willie Anderson (@BigWillie7179) December 2, 2018
In a separate tweet, Anderson even confirmed Dillon doesn’t know how to log in to Twitter:
Corey couldn’t even begin to tell you how to login to twitter! Let alone be on here being nice to people 😂 https://t.co/91AO0d88Qj
— Willie Anderson (@BigWillie7179) December 2, 2018
When the Patriots acquired troubled wide receiver Antonio Brown from the then-Oakland Raiders two years later, it drew comparisons to the time Dillon left Cincinnati for New England in 2004.
Dillon grew tired of those comparisons.
In his interview with Morrison in September 2109, he tried to clear the air:
“I’ve got nothing against AB. He’s a hell of a football player. I don’t know him personally. I never had the opportunity to meet him.”
“People want to say I was the bad guy in that situation? No, that’s not the case. It comes down to we play this football game to win football games. That’s what you play for. I don’t know what was on everybody else’s agenda.”
Dillon refuted claims he was a “me” guy. He also told The Athletic his former Bengals teammates can attest he wasn’t a locker room cancer.
Dillon told Morrison he had the opportunity to improve himself and his career in New England, so he pursued it. He eventually won a Super Bowl ring in his first year with the Patriots.
Unfortunately, some people still label him the bad guy for bolting Cincinnati.
It’s one label Corey Dillon doesn’t understand at all.
He claimed quarterback Carson Palmer did the same thing when he left the Bengals for the Oakland Raiders in 2011.
— Merloni & Fauria (@MerloniFauria) September 13, 2019
Many still viewed Palmer as a good guy. Dillon received the opposite treatment
“He (Palmer) went on to the Raiders and then the Cardinals and it’s ,’Oh, he’s a great guy.,'” Dillon told Morrison in 2019. “Me? ‘Oh, he’s a cancer.’ I don’t get it.”
He also made it clear he has no animosity toward the Bengals, per The Athletic.
Dillon is an avid golfer. According to Dehner, he plays almost daily and aims to break 80 on the golf course.