Family, opportunity led North Hills speedster Dickerson to Robert Morris

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Saturday, February 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM


After an explosive high school football career and a winding, challenging recruiting process, Robert Dickerson has found a home for the next four years. And he will have to drive only a few miles down the road to get there.

Dickerson, North Hills’ dynamic wide receiver, committed to Robert Morris on Feb. 2.

“They were my latest offer,” Dickerson said. “I really didn’t have them too much in consideration at first. Originally, they were only taking one receiver because they ran a pro style offense, but then they got a new offensive coordinator (Eric Gallon) who wants to spread the ball out, so they’re taking more (receivers).”

On his recruiting visit to Moon Township, Dickerson saw a familiar face on the walls of the football facility. His cousin, Robb Butler, is one of the all-time great Colonials, who has his jersey retired at the school and went on to play in the NFL.

“For me, that was really cool to see,” he said of the posters of Butler hanging on campus. “And I got to hang out with all the guys, and it felt like a place I wanted to be. And I’m really excited for it.”

He also felt a strong connection with Gallon and RMU coach Bernard Clark.

“They’re really good people, and they played in the NFL, so they know what they’re talking about,” he said. “And Coach Clark played on the (Miami) Hurricanes when they were prime time, so that was cool talking to him about that, as well.”

As a senior, Dickerson pulled in more than 450 receiving yards and scored seven touchdowns this season as the Indians went 7-4, earning a share of the Class 5A Northeast Conference title.

“It was magical,” Dickerson said. “I started watching Friday Night Lights this summer. I wanted my senior season to be like that. For the most part, it kind of was. The whole season, having kids come up to me to sign stuff and cheering my name, it was really special.

Dickerson also loved the mystique of North Hills football, following in the footsteps of greats such as LaVar Arrington.

“It was a cool place to play football,” he said. “Especially at Martorelli Stadium. You can’t beat it.”

A first-team all-state selection, Dickerson not only made plays while running routes, but he was an excellent special teams returner. That could be in the cards for him at Robert Morris.

“He is a physical specimen,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “He is a tremendous worker and has really put a lot of time into not only developing himself physically, but his speed and agility. He’s constantly working on things, to the point where I’ve asked him to slow it down because I’m afraid that it’s too much. But it’s a pleasure to have a kid like that, with the ability that he has and the work ethic that he has.

“Being able to be recruited by Robert Morris, right in your backyard, a place that plays a high quality of football, it’s a great situation for him.”

But that recruitment didn’t come without snares. In October, Dickerson committed to Bucknell to play football and baseball, a sport in which he is a standout outfielder. Weeks later, he reopened his recruitment.

“Because of all of the covid things, and kids coming back to school, it’s a different recruiting process right now,” Carey said. “He went through some ups and downs because of the transfer portal, the covid stuff and kids being able to return. Over the last couple of years, it’s been difficult for high school seniors to find a spot.”

The ripple effect from covid’s impact on college athletics hit Dickerson hard.

“It was definitely really confusing,” he said. “I had all the way up to the Power Five level recruiting me and saying they wanted me. A month ago, I had no idea where I was going to go and was considering a JUCO out in California because I thought it was my best option.”

While Dickerson is an exceptional baseball player for the Indians and was hoping to latch onto a school that would allow him to play both sports, he won’t have that option for the Colonials, who do not sponsor a baseball team.

“I played baseball seriously for two months out of the year, and even those two months I’m still going to football practice,” he said. “I put a lot more time into football anyways, so it’s just something I have to deal with.”

But that doesn’t mean that Dickerson won’t potentially find a way to be a two-sport athlete in college.

He has been told that Robert Morris plans to relaunch its men’s track and field program in spring 2023, and he — a strong track athlete who will compete in the state indoor track championships this month — could try to make both sports work.

Even if he sticks with just football, Carey knows Robert Morris is going to get an exceptional athlete and person.

“I think the biggest thing that sticks out to me is that he wants to win,” Carey said. “He’s a competitor. When he lines up on Friday night, and now Saturday afternoon, the kid wants to win.”

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