Dickey was a quarterback in college, playing for his father, Jim Dickey, at Kansas State University. Coached by Dickey, North Texas won the 2002 New Orleans Bowl. The win highlighted a four-year period (2001–2004) during which the Mean Green became only the 11th program in college football history to win four consecutive conference titles.
Dickey comes from a family of coaches. His father, Jim Dickey, was a successful college and Texas high school coach for over 40 years. Brother Jim Dickey Jr., has coached in Texas high schools for over 30 years.
In 2006, despite being fired by the University of North Texas, a donor requested that school officials name the new football practice facility in honor of him. The donor did not want to have his own name branded on the practice fields, but believed the program's accomplishments under his leadership deemed Dickey worthy of the naming rights.
Graduated from Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1978. Passed for 2800 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2 years at CHHS. Voted conference player of the year in 1977 and was a 1977 Shrine Bowl Participant
Dickey was the starting quarterback at Kansas State for four seasons from 1979 to 1982. In 1979, he established the school record for passing yards by a freshman with 915, a record that stood until 2005 when Allan Evridge broke the record with 1,365 yards.
Dickey concluded his collegiate career in 1982 by leading the Wildcats to the school's first bowl appearance in its 87-year history, the 1982 Independence Bowl. He left Kansas State ranked second all-time in pass completions, yards passing, touchdown passes, and total offense.
Dickey remains only player in Kansas State history to lead the school in passing yards and total offense for four consecutive seasons.
He signed free agent contracts in 1983 and 1984 with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints respectively.
Dickey served as a graduate assistant under Jackie Sherrill at Texas A&M in 1985, where he was part of a staff that led the Aggies to their first Southwest Conference title since 1975.
In 1986, he was hired by Charlie Bailey at Memphis to serve as tight ends coach in 1986. The next season, he coached the running backs, and the year after that he was appointed offensive coordinator. During his time with the Tigers, Memphis upset Southeast Conference powers Alabama in 1987 and Florida in 1988. The win against Florida was at The Swamp.
In 1990, Dickey was hired to coach quarterbacks and running backs at Mississippi State. That season, the Bulldogs beat LSU, 34–22, to end a five-season losing streak to the Bayou Bengals. Dickey pupil Tay Galloway ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
In 1991 Dickey became tight ends coach at Louisiana State, where he served until 1993. The 1993 LSU squad upset #1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He then rejoined Charlie Bailey as offensive coordinator at UTEP in 1994 and stayed with the Miners through the 1996 season.
In 1997, he served as offensive coordinator at SMU under Mike Cavan. The 1997 Ponies posted their first winning season since the return from their NCAA-imposed "Death Penalty." The season included a 31–9 victory over former Southwest Conference foe Arkansas in Shreveport, Louisiana. Dickey was hired to be the head coach at the University of North Texas following the 1997 season.
Following his stint at North Texas, Dickey became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Utah State for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He was the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at New Mexico for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
In 2011, he joined Dennis Franchione at Texas State as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach.
In 2012, Dickey was hired to be Offensive Coordinator and running backs couch at the University of Memphis. Shortly after his arrival, then head coach Justin Fuente sent him to Deltona, Florida to recruit an unheralded, lighty recruited prep quarterback named Paxton Lynch. Dickey had long ago earned a reputation for finding diamonds in the rough as a recruiter, and he reported back to Fuente that Memphis should sign Lynch. In 2016, Lynch was the 26th pick in the First Round of the NFL Draft.
In November 2015, Dickey was named interim head coach of the Memphis Tiger after head coach Justin Fuente was hired by Virginia Tech. Dickey coached the Tigers against the Auburn Tigers in the Birmingham Bowl on December 30, 2015. Auburn won the game 31-10, pulling away in the second half after ending the first half tied 10-10.
In January 2017, Dickey was elevated to offensive coordinator by Memphis head coach Mike Norvell.
When hired to lead the Mean Green in 1998, Darrell Dickey took over a football program which hadn't had a winning season since 1994. In his fourth season at the helm, Dickey's Mean Green won a share of their first Sun Belt Conference title and played in the first of their four consecutive New Orleans Bowl appearances. From 2001–2004, Dickey led UNT to four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles.
From 2001–2005, Dickey's North Texas teams won 26 consecutive Sun Belt Conference games, a streak that began on October 13, 2001 with a 24–21 win over Middle Tennessee State and ended on October 4, 2005 with a 13–10 loss to Troy University.
While Dickey was coach, North Texas produced back-to-back national rushing leaders. Patrick Cobbs was the leading rusher in the nation in 2003 and Jamario Thomas was national rushing leader in 2004.
During his tenure, Darrell Dickey led the UNT to high-profile wins over Big 12 schools Texas Tech (1999) and Baylor (2003). Additionally, the Mean Green posted a 2–1 record against Boise State during his time in Denton. In 2002, he guided the Mean Green to a victory over CUSA Champion Cincinnati in the New Orleans Bowl.
After two consecutive losing seasons in 2005 and 2006, Dickey was fired. North Texas paid out the remaining years on his contract.
Current and former NFL players who played for Dickey at North Texas include:Phil Armour center, Indianapolis Colts (2000)
Adrian Awasom defensive end, New York Giants (2005–2007), Minnesota Vikings (2011)
John Baker punter, St. Louis Rams (2000–2001): Punted for the Rams during their Super Bowl XXXVI season.
Patrick Cobbs running back, Miami Dolphins (2006–2010)
Brad Kassell linebacker, Tennessee Titans (2002–2005), New York Jets (2006–2007)
Cody Spencer linebacker, Tennessee Titans (2004–2005), New York Jets (2006–2008)
Brian Waters guard, Dallas Cowboys (1999, 2013) Kansas City Chiefs (2000–2010), New England Patriots (2011): Pro Bowl (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010), First Team All-Pro (2004, 2005), NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner (2009)
Assistants under Darrell Dickey who became NCAA head coaches:Eric Wolford: Youngstown State (2010–2014)