America meets Dillon

5-21-02, 4:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Corey Dillon, maybe the NFL's most low-profile Pro Bowler, is literally a shoo-in for maximum exposure this summer.

On Tuesday, the day ESPN came to town to shoot Dillon in "The Life," he made his debut in his very own Nike football shoe. The white size 13s with orange trim and patent leather on the side are known as, "The Dillonator." And you know because the name is written on each tongue.

"They're light, they're mids (not high tops or low tops), and they're comfortable," Dillon said after breaking them in at Tuesday's voluntary practice. "The biggest thing is they're mine. It's my signature shoe. It's long overdue, but about time."

It's also time for the Bengals' first-ever open-air ad campaign, slated to unveil its first billboards next week with Dillon as the cover guy. He is to appear on about 30 boards throughout Greater Cincinnati for much of the summer, with the most visible signs planted overseeing Interstates 71 and 75.

"We think this is a great way to blanket the market with the hotline ticket number (621-TDTD) and our web site (bengals.com)," said Vince Cicero, the Bengals director of marketing. "And Corey is our most visible player."

He certainly will be after this

Star Wars summer. The Bengals are giving ESPN full access Wednesday, when they plan to mike Dillon during practice and sit with him in meetings while shooting a segment that is to appear for the first time either June 7 or June 14.

It is a busy enough week for Dillon that one of his agents from the Southern California-based firm of Athletes First, Joby Branion, came to Cincinnati to coordinate. While ESPN went to Dillon's home Tuesday, Branion also set up a photo spread with the car magazine "Dub," which scheduled a shoot with Dillon The Car Buff.

"He's getting to the point where he's getting some ink nationally and we're on the verge of closing some local deals I can't discuss," Branion said. "The Bengals are obviously putting him out front. Now is the time."

On the way in the next few months is Dillon's own web site, known as, naturally, "thedillonator.com." Someone is already cyber-squatting on coreydillon.com, which is of no surprise to Branion. Several of his high-profile clients have had their name bought, with the buyers looking to sell it back to the player for more than $15,000 in some cases.

"Once the season gets going, he'll probably write a journal and answer fan mail," Branion said of the site. "And he'll have information about his foundation and the schedule of events that are tied into it."

Billboards and shoes. Two sure signs of success. The shoes came from a brainstorming session at last year's training camp among Dillon, Bengals equipment managers Rob Recker and Jeff Brickner, and Nike regional manager Greg Young as they discussed Randy Moss' new shoes.

They won't be made available to the public and only about 40 or so Pro Bowl players (such as Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner) have their own shoe.

"I would say it's something special," Recker said. "I don't think any Bengal has ever had his own shoe. That's got to say something."

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