INDIANAPOLIS – Duane Bickett was the Colts’ first-round choice in 1985, the fifth player taken overall in the draft. With the Colts, Bickett never played in fewer than 12 games in any season. He ranks third in franchise history with 50.0 sacks. Bickett was credited with 1,052 career tackles by coaches, one of seven Indianapolis Colts to top 700 for a career. It is the second-highest total in the club’s local era. Bickett was an All-AFC and All-NFL choice in 1987 and made the Pro Bowl. He was All-AFC in 1988. Bickett started all 137 appearances with Indianapolis through 1993, then played from 1994-95 with Seattle and with Carolina in 1996. Bickett started 138-of-173 career games. Bickett looks back on his career:
What was your favorite road stadium to play in and why?
Mine was any stadium in California. It meant my family and friends would attend the games, the weather would be nice and we would play on natural grass. A great trifecta!
What opposing player did you respect the most and why?
Dan Marino (click here). He had such command and presence on the field. If you made the slightest error in alignment or positioning on coverage etc. he took advantage. He saw everything on the football field. There was no throw he wouldn’t make.
Who was the NFL player you wanted to meet the most before you made the league and why?
Ken Stabler (click here). I was a huge Raider fan growing up and Ken Stabler was their unabashed leader. He made throws from his hip pocket. I am left-handed as well and would emulate him and his throwing style as a kid playing with my friends.
What was your most memorable Colts game and why?
There are too many to count considering the 130 games I played, but the game against the Jets at Giants Stadium in 1987 sticks out. We were playing well as a team and were looking at making the playoffs. It was a beautiful sunny day. I had four sacks in our victory, and it just felt like everything clicked not only for me but for our team.
Who was the toughest teammate you had and why was he the toughest?
Sam Mills (click here), when I played for the Carolina Panthers. At 5-9, he wasn’t the most imposing of linebackers, but he made up for it in every facet of the game. He was our team’s captain, would routinely stand up 300 pound offensive linemen in their tracks, understood every position on defense and never missed a snap, the most complete football player I have ever played with.
What was the hardest thing you ever had to do in a game?
I took a shot in a game and temporarily lost peripheral vision in my left eye for a series. Since I played on the right side, I had to turn my head sideways to see the line of scrimmage.
What was the hardest thing about playing on the road?
Sleeping in hotel rooms. I found it hard to get a good night sleep prior to the game. Oh, and the pregame meals were not exactly gourmet in those days!!
What was your favorite road win?
Beating the Cleveland Browns in 1987. We needed to beat them to have a shot to make the playoffs. They were one of the top teams in the AFC. It was cold in an old stadium on a rutted- out field, but it was old-school football that I grew up watching. We won the game with a gutty defensive performance in a low scoring game (9-7) that propelled us to the playoffs.
What did your jersey number mean to you?
Initially, it was just a number given to me by Colts Head Equipment Manager Jon Scott. I was number 80 in college, and linebackers in the NFL can only wear numbers in the 50’s or 90’s. So Jon gave me number 50. I remained number 50 for all of my 12 NFL seasons on three different teams. It was my constant through all my years and my reminder to always play with pride and passion. To this day, it is my association to the NFL.
What was the most fun thing about training camp?
The camaraderie! My fondest memories are of all those weeks of training camp bonding with your teammates. All the hi-jinx and pranks made the physical hardships of camp worth every minute.
What was the toughest thing about training camp?
The physical and mental grind of two-a-days. Having meetings until curfew and the waking up and doing it all over again for five weeks was tough.
What advice would you give to players heading into the NFL?
Bust your butt on every aspect of the game, not only on the practice field, but in the meetings as well. There is very little difference in terms of talent in the NFL. Separate yourself in every manner possible. Coaches, GMs and owners recognize immediately who the hard workers are and who can be counted on to give their best effort.
When was the loudest you heard the RCA Dome or Lucas Oil Stadium and what was the circumstance?
The first Monday Night football game the Indianapolis Colts ever played at home versus John Elway and the Denver Broncos. It was Halloween Night and our fans were as loud and as into it as they had ever been. We took it to the Broncos in a lopsided victory (55-23), and obviously the crowd was a huge factor.
What is the best college uniform and why?
No question, it is the USC Trojans uniforms. The great thing about the Trojans uniforms is that they haven’t changed. The tradition of the University and the tradition of the uniforms remain. While other schools are changing uniforms yearly or in some cases weekly, USC maintains that classic look that I remember watching as a kid in the big rivalry games with UCLA and Notre Dame.
What is the best NFL uniform (other than the Colts) and why?
I would say the Oakland Raiders. Again, the have maintained the same style of uniform for the entirety of their existence as a franchise. It’s classic black and gray. As a kid, I loved everything about their uniforms, both home and away.
What is your all-time favorite stadium (not necessarily in the NFL) and why?
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It has so much history. Though the stadium is old and lacks the amenities of newer stadiums, as a player, you felt like you were playing in history. When I was at USC, I remember walking out of the dark tunnel, the marching band playing “Conquest” (click here) on either side then running out onto the bright sun filled stadium in front of 100,000 screaming fans. Hard to beat that!!
What is the greatest sporting event or individual performance outside the NFL that you saw in person?
Greatest, that’s hard to say, but a great sporting event that I witnessed was the State of Origin rugby match in Brisbane, Australia. State of Origin is an All-Star game, which pits Pro Rugby League (RLS) players born in Queensland Australia versus players born in New South Wales Australia. It is one of the most intense rivalries in sports – “State Against State, Mate Against Mate.” The yearly series often has teammates on their professional teams pitted against one another for the game. Victory in the State of Origin is a victory for the entire State. It is a frenzied atmosphere to be sure. Or, my very first Indianapolis 500. The speed of the racecars ripping around the track was shocking, but what was even more shocking was the amount of spectators in the Speedway stadium both in the stands and on the infield. One of my most memorable things in all of sports was when the pace car pulled off after the final warm up lap and the 30-plus cars came charging down the front stretch to begin racing. It felt like a thunderstorm heading toward you at 230 miles an hour.
What was your favorite team growing up and why?
The Oakland Raiders, a winning franchise with great uniforms and full of colorful characters.
Who was your favorite NFL player growing up and why?
Ken Stabler. First off, he was a left-handed quarterback (I am left-handed) who played with great flair. I loved watching him scramble then throw a side-armed pass right on the money as I would often imitate with my friends at the park.
Who is the best pure athlete you have had as a teammate in Indianapolis?
Eric Dickerson (click here), one of the best pure runners in football history. He was big fast and smooth. If he got a seam, he was gone.
What do you remember the most about Colts fans?
They were extremely loyal to the franchise. From the news media down to the paying fans, they were very positive and supportive of the team and the players, no matter the ups and downs. Just like they were with the Pacers. Though the franchise was new when I joined the team, there always felt like there was a real feeling of support, a true bond.