Mr. Nice Guy

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As cheerful as Dickson is, don't mistake Mr. Nice Guy's upbeat personality for a lack of fire on the field.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is facing another tough position battle with fellow rookie Dennis Pitta, not to mention 2009 draft pick Davon Drew.  A determined Dickson will never shy away from a fight.

"I'm a competitor, and I want to play this season," Dickson said with a fire in his eye. "I'm a team player, so I anyway I can help, I'm ready.  But I'm trying to set myself apart to where they can't keep me off the field.

"That mindset keeps me going."

If Ravens tight end Ed Dickson worked in a kitchen, he'd just as cheerfully take up a spot as a fry cook as he would manning the grill.

Put him on a boat, and Dickson would happily whistle whether he's trimming the sails or mopping the deck.

With a toothy smile constantly beaming across his face, Dickson considers any job a good one, which is a key trait when working with a team – especially one such as John Harbaugh's Ravens.

As Dickson tries to navigate from third-round draft pick to the NFL, he is simply trying to find a way onto the field, no matter where it is.

"That's why I don't ever want anybody to say I wasn't the hardest worker out there," Dickson said.  "Some people struggle to realize that you get out of life what you put in it.  The same goes for football."

Luckily, his buoyant demeanor has helped him through similar situations in the past.

Bred into his psyche by an aunt with whom he lived during his high school years, and continually praised by his coaches as he put together a standout career at the University of Oregon, Dickson's positivity is infectious.

And it is a trait that should help him at the next level.

The Start of Something SpecialDickson didn't have a rough upbringing as many of his counterparts, but certainly, nothing was ever given to him.

As a young boy, he lived with his mother, Rena, grandmother and two sisters in the predominantly-Hispanic Norwalk, Calif., near Los Angeles.

But as he reached his teens, Dickson moved across town to Bellflower, Calif., where he was predominantly raised by his aunt, Melinda Wilson. Although Dickson emphasized he remains close to his mother and she was always there, the change allowed him to join a better school district and attend Bellflower High School.

Wilson, who also had a son named Jordan three years younger than Dickson, stayed on her nephew from the start.

"I told him when he first came here, 'You can be whatever you want to be.  It doesn't matter what people think of you, it's all in what you want to do.  Some people learn differently than other people, but it's all in your mind,'" said Wilson.  

Dickson took those words to heart.

As a man, Dickson won't likely be forgotten in the community because of an enthusiasm for whatever he did, whether it was playing for Bellflower's varsity basketball squad, mentoring younger children, or refereeing for youth leagues.  

As a student, he had the help of several caring teachers in school that pushed him to qualify for and eventually enroll in a major college.

"If you walked in Bellflower, there is always somebody that would say, 'I know Ed,'" Wilson reminisced. "He was someone that always did what he had to do and loved it."  

The same characteristics followed him on the football field where he flourished into one of the top tight end recruits in the nation by the time he left Bellflower.

Tight End InterruptedDespite Dickson's great success at the tight end position, he had little opportunity to show off his talent at the start of his college career.

Arriving on Oregon's campus in 2005, he was immediately buried on the depth chart behind Tim Day, who spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Dante Rosario, currently a Carolina Panther.

Following a redshirt campaign, his first taste of live action came in 2006, but it was on the defensive side of the ball.  When a rash of injuries hit the Ducks' defensive ends, Dickson was called into duty.

"He is such a good kid, that he always said he would do whatever we wanted," recalled Neal Zoumboukos, former Oregon Tight Ends Coach and current Special Assistant to the Athletic Director.  

Playing in pass rush situations, Dickson notched three tackles in the 2006 opener against Stanford and a tackle for loss against Arizona State.

"Coach never told me I had to play it," Dickson recalled.  "He asked, 'Would you be interested in playing D-end?'  I never missed a beat.  I was like, 'Coach, if it helps the team, I'll do it.'"

Late in the season, Dickson was finally given a position change.

But it still wasn't to tight end, where he knew he could excel. Again due to team necessity, Dickson played at receiver.

It wasn't until his third season, his first as a starter, that Dickson found his niche.  

Not only was he given the opportunity to play his position of choice, but as a redshirt sophomore, Dickson set a school tight end record with 43 receptions.

Zoubmoukos remembered a time midway through Dickson's mix-and-match campaign when he realized the young prospect needed more action at his real position.

"You could look at the stop watch and see that he's got great speed and athleticism," Zoumboukos said.  "But there was one day in practice where a pass was thrown his way, and it was one of those ones where you think there is no way he's going to get to it. He went up, turned around, basically did a 180 in the air, pulled it in with one hand and turned upfield.

"We all looked at each other and said, 'Whoa, we've got to get this guy on the field.'"

Handling The FrustrationAs frustrated as Dickson was during those early college years, his smile never disappeared, both on and off the field.  Through it all, Dickson handled his situation with class and determination.

He remained committed to his special teams duties when needed, even though he was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, by the time he was a senior.

Dickson continued his service to the community, whether it was the girls youth basketball team he addressed last fall or the Nike football camp he assisted at Oregon.

Although he had his academic struggles in the past, Dickson left Eugene, Ore., with a degree in political science.

As if channeling his own background, Dickson remembered the advice he gave his "little brother," Jordan, a promising high school receiver whose football dreams were dashed when he broke his collarbone as a senior.

"I just told him to keep his head up and know that if he stays positive, he can work through it," Dickson said, noting his pride in Jordan's new aspirations of becoming a fireman and EMT in Compton, Calif.

Now, he has even more reason to grin moving forward with his fiancé, Ashley, six months pregnant with his first child.

As he endures the challenges all rookies face in the NFL, Dickson and his supporters know he possesses the character to succeed.

"The thing that made him so great in those tough times was that Ed did whatever they wanted him to do," Wilson said.  "And, he did it well because of his work ethic and attitude.  I knew I wouldn't be burying my nephew or saying that he wasn't a good kid growing up.  

"That smile on his face, that persona that lets you know he's a warm person is genuine.  It's real."

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