Bennie Blades came out of Piper High School in Sunrise, Florida to attend the University of Miami. He went on to become a star safety for one of the nation’s top college football teams. As a junior, Blades led the nation in interceptions (10), and was a consensus All-American as a senior. He led Miami to the 1987 national championship and was co-winner of the Jim Thorpe Award with Ricky Dixon from Oklahoma. Blades finished his college career with 19 interceptions for 305 yards along with 286 tackles, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
He was the third selection in the 1988 NFL draft and played 11 years with the Detroit Lions. He went on to earn NFL All-Rookie honors for the 1988 season. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1991, and receiving First-Team All-NFL and First-team All-NFC honors. He was the Lions’ Defensive MVP in 1992 and led the team with 132 tackles in 1996, which was one of three 100-tackle seasons he had in Detroit. During his time with the Lions, Blades was considered one of the most physical defensive backs in the NFL, even playing as a linebacker in certain passing situations. He was a key component to the Lions’ defense that helped the team claim two NFC Central titles, and a berth in the 1992 NFC Championship game. He was a defensive captain for five years in Detroit and his 815 career tackles place him second on the Lions’ all-time list.
He currently resides with his family in Florida.
Ricky Dixon was a standout defensive back at the University of Oklahoma (OU), playing both cornerback and safety. He won All-Conference honors in 1986 and 1987, and was a consensus All-American in 1987. He played in the 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 Orange Bowls, and was a key figure in OU’s 1985 National Championship. Dixon was co-winner of the 1987 Jim Thorpe Award with Miami’s Bennie Blades. He finished his college career with 170 tackles and 17 interceptions. During his senior season Dixon had nine interceptions for 232 yards, a school record. He was drafted with the fifth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals and played six years in the NFL.
PAYCOM JIM THORPE AWARD
1987 Paycom Jim Thorpe Award Winners Bennie Blades, University of Miami
and Rickey Dixon, University of Oklahoma