Known as one of the better defensive backs of his era in The National Football League, Louisville, Kentucky’s Cris Dishman was actually a standout wide receiver at St. Francis DeSales High School.
When the speed burner arrived at Purdue University, Dishman transitioned to the defensive side of the ball, becoming a standout defensive back for the Boilermakers. The emerging star was named a member of the All-Big Ten Team in 1987. He also laced up the track spikes and ran the 200-meter and 400-meter dash for the Boilermakers.
Dishman was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the 5th round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He went on to have a 13-year NFL career, playing for the Oilers, Chiefs, Vikings and Redskins. Best known for his time in Houston, Dishman was a two time Pro Bowler and a First Team All-Pro in 1991.
In the latest installment of Card Back Q&A, we catch up with the retired DB and talk about his on field emotions, his ball hawking mentality and trash talking the G.O.A.T.
Tony Reid– Your 1992 Pro Set Power card mentioned you “sidelined some of his outward displays of emotion” but it emphasizes that you “continue to shine as one of the NFL’s premiere cornerbacks.” Can you speak to playing with the emotions you played with?
Cris Dishman- I’m an emotional person and that is what inspires me to be a better player. They are controlled emotions. Many people may say it was out of control but I felt like I was in control of my emotions. That is what fires me up. I could see someone saying that I was too emotional. I did play with a lot of emotion and I did get after a lot of players. I got after my own players and I even got after myself on the sidelines from time to time.
TR– The 1992 Score card mentioned your blazing 4.4 speed and states that you “reacts to the ball well. Does he ever.” You proved that over your career with the interceptions, forced fumbles and other turnovers. Can you speak to that blazing speed and where that ball hawking mentality originated?
CD– Watching the Raiders and players like Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes as well as the Steelers Mel Blount, watching those guys play. Coming out of college I was 176 pounds. They probably gave me some pounds at the combine. I could always run. That was my strength, my interest and my focus. I felt like I could cover any receiver because I wasn’t afraid of any receiver outrunning me. I had the confidence and the ability playing receiver to turn and look for the ball and catch it. I wasn’t afraid of anyone because I could catch anybody.
I was fortunate to have some great defensive backs coaches when I was at Purdue. Phil Bennett always preached ball hawking. The best defensive backs are ball hawking guys who can turn and find the ball. I remember Coach Bennett telling me my last year there that in order to make it to the league you have to catch interceptions. That stuck in my head and still sticks in my head and I still tell my guys that to this day.
TR-Your 1993 Pinnacle card says “Looking for Cris? Try the middle of the action. That’s where he always seems to be… making a big play when it counts most…”
By the third or fourth year in the league you developed that reputation as a playmaker. What was the attitude on the team? Did your teammates count on you as the guy to come up big in big spots?
CD-I don’t know if the guys knew but that was the expectation I had of myself. I don’t consider it pressure. I expected to do great things. I expected to shut down Jerry Rice and Andre Rison and the Tim Browns and Michael Irvins of the league. I expected myself to shut those guys down. Did it always happen that way? No it didn’t always happen but I still had that expectation every game. I put it on myself to be the one to make the big play. When it was 3 and 12 I wanted them to throw my way. It wasn’t like ‘Oh, Lord. I hope they throw it to the other side.’ It was more like ‘They aren’t going to come my way. If they do I’m going to make the play.’ I want them to throw to my side. That is why I talked to much trash to the opposing offense, the receivers and the offensive coordinators because I wanted them to be so mad at me that they threw my way. I can tell them that trick now since I’m not playing but that is one of the reasons I did that. I wanted them to feel like they needed to show me and throw my way but they were falling right into my trap. I wanted them to throw my way.
TR-That begs the question, what is the most memorable trash talking interaction you had during your career?
CD-One year we played San Francisco and I was talking trash to Jerry (Rice) and he never said anything back. I think he had five or six catches on me. He really got after me. A few years later we played them in San Francisco on Christmas Day. I was talking noise to him and he started talking noise back. That’s when I knew I got him. With Jerry if he doesn’t say anything back to you, you are in for a long day. When he started chirping back I knew I had him. One of those plays that game on a deep ball he thought he had me on a post route and I ended up undercutting it and intercepting it and sealed the game for us.