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Dicken May Finally Be In The Right Place

by Mike Vergane
April 16, 2000 - arenafootball2 (af2)

Dicken May Finally Be In The Right Place

by Mike Vergane

Quad City Steamwheeler QB Billy Dicken has seen one recurring theme throughout his professional career. He has been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Bloomington, Illinois native was recruited by Purdue head coach Jim Colletto to play QB in 1993, although he also played baseball as the Boilermaker's shortstop in his freshman year. His first three years at Purdue were rather non-descript rotating playing time with Rick Trefzger and John Reeves.

It wasn't until his senior season that things finally got interesting. After the '96 season ended, Purdue fired Jim Colletto and hired Joe Tiller away from the Wyoming Cowboys. Tiller brought his "Basketball On Grass" philosophy from Laramie to West Lafayette, and suddenly Billy Dicken's career was ready to take off. In their '97 summer camp, Dicken wrestled away the starting spot from John Reeves and ended up leading Purdue to a 9-3 record and a win in the Alamo Bowl over Oklahoma State. Dicken threw for 3,136 yards that season, a far cry from the inaction of his first three years. All he needed was a chance.

"I've always been a pretty confident guy and I like to throw the ball" said Dicken. "So when I heard Coach Tiller was coming to Purdue I was excited. I felt I was a smart QB and I could fit right into his system."

After graduation, Dicken signed with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL. But it wasn't the right place. The Tiger Cats had Florida State quarterback Danny McManus who played every game in the '98 and '99 seasons, throwing for 10,181 yards and over 60 TD's.

"I was in camp with the Tiger Cats and it was a situation that wasn't the best for me," recalled Dicken. "But I had fun up there. It was an opportunity to go somewhere else. It just didn't work out."

After he was realeased by Hamilton he hooked up with the Nashville Kats of the AFL. But once again he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nashville was being led by former Volunteer QB Andy Kelly, and it is tough to beat out a University of Tennessee QB playing in his home state. It's doubly tough when that QB throws for 3,609 yards and 67 TD's in one season.

"There were three of us on the roster, and I was on the team for over half of the season when I got released. It was a situation where Andy's back-up had some Arena experience. I did learn quite a bit down there and it's helping me up here in the Quad Cities."

One good thing did come out of his time in Nashville. While the Kats were playing the NJ Red Dogs, Dicken caught the eye of Red Dog assistant coach Frank Haege, his current coach with the Steamwheelers. During the off-season, Dicken was also courted by the Peoria Pirates of the IFL, just 45 minutes away from his hometown.

"Coach Cowdrey of the Pirates talked to me this year and last year, but I just wasn't interested. I was playing in Nashville in Arena One, and when Coach Haege talked to me I thought it was a better opportunity to play AF2 than in the IFL."

And by all early indications, Dicken will have a pretty good set of wide receivers to throw to. The starting set of recievers include offensive specialist Shon King, Scott Hvistendahl and Xavier Patterson, who Frank Haege coached while in New Jersey. Haege also coached Hvistendahl while serving as the offensive coordinator at Division III Augsburg College. By the way, Hvistendahl is the All-Time NCAA leader in career receivng yards with 4,696. That is in "all" NCAA Divisions. In 98, he won the Gagliardi Award, the Div. III equivalent of the Heisman, catching 112 passes for 1,860 yards.

Dicken believes that even though this is a level below the AFL, there still is a lot of talent in the AF2. "In Arena One, you have a solid player at every position. Here, you have a weak link here or there. But you do have athletes here on this team and in this league that can play in Arena One."

Look for Billy Dicken to be one of the first players to "graduate" to the AFL next year. The next time Dicken goes into a QB battle, he will do so with professional playing experience. And maybe then he will finally be in the right place at the right time.

Mike Vergane writes his af2 column on a biweekly basis for OurSports. He has covered college football for local and national radio since 1995.

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