It was 1988 when future Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett was traded to the Denver Broncos from the Dallas Cowboys for a mid round pick. He was, by this time, in the twilight years of his career with something to prove and Denver was his stage. In his only season with the Broncos, he lead the team with 703 yards and five touchdown. The injury bug bit him the next season, and he never saw the field again. I remember thinking, as a 13 year old, how crushing that must be. There was 15 year old witnessing this whole thing first-hand who would carry this experience into his own life later on.
It was 2003 the last time Anthony Dorsett (33) stepped foot on an NFL field. In 2007 he was in camp with with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, but was cut during camp. He had not stepped foot on a professional football field as a player since.
That changed this past spring when, at age 36, Anthony Dorsett signed with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. Having played 8 years in the NFL (four with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans and four with the Oakland Raiders) he knows well the mettle it takes to perform. He has been through the camps, the injuries, the Monday roll outs where the body wants only the touch of the bed due to the wounds, aches and dings of the battle the day before. He has marched alongside his teammates onto the grandest stage this sport knows…the Super Bowl. Anthony was the starting free safety in Super Bowl XXXIV for the Titans who suffered a loss at the hands of the St. Louis Rams, literally by a matter of inches. He was part of a defensive unit that almost prevented the cementing of “the greatest show on turf” as a championship juggernaut. Few players in the world can say they were so close to the NFL, let alone a moment like that.
So on 8/28/2010, on a blistering field in eastern Nebraska one question came into my mind. Could a soon-to-be 37 year old safety still get it done? When I saw Anthony Dorsett stride confidently onto the field, I knew the kind of man I was seeing. I knew I was bearing witness to a player who had been there. Done that. Done it well. But he would be 37 much sooner than later. As I watched him head towards me, a familiarity I could not shake set in. In the way he carried himself, in the way he donned his gear…but it escaped me. As I watched him warm up, I found my temperature rising and took off my hat to wipe my forehead…and the hat in my hand lit the bulb above my head. “Weapon-X”…Brian Dawkins…soon to be 37 year old safety of the Denver Broncos. I am by no means comparing the two talent-wise, for I will not pretend the man I saw in Omaha plays on the level as the man I watched at Dove Valley these past few weeks. It was not the play at that point. It was the swagger…the barely contained animal-like aggression that had Dorsett pacing the sidelines and muttering to himself between drills. Anyone who has been to training camp, or watched the Denver Broncos warm up before a game last season and closely watched Dawkins knows what I am talking about. Mr. Dorsett was much the same Saturday.
For the first half of the scrimmage, the defense dominated as a whole. Dorsett was unleashed throughout. In the first offensive series, QB D.J. Shockley handed the ball off to RB Shaud Williams who saw a seam and cut into it hard. Unfortunately for him, ’33′ met him in the hole and decimated Williams for no gain. Dorsett popped up and trotted back to the huddle, Williams rose slowly and did the same. “Woo!-lick“…back to the huddle. Been there. Done that. Gonna do it again. All day. This is a pro’s pro. As the practice went on, the trend continued. This was his field, and to take even an inch of it…one was to be faced with Anthony Dorsett. Former Colorado School of Mines QB Chad Friehauf completed a screen pass to FB Tommy Fraser into the flat off the offense’s right side. Three steps after the catch Tommy Fraser completed a trip out of bounds as Anthony Dorsett body-rocked him with authority! Soon after, former Penn State QB Anthony Morelli tried a pass over the middle into the heart of the secondary. Former Bronco David Kircus was ready for a big gain…until Dorsett flew in and tipped it away. This was the theme for Dorsett’s day. He was everywhere.
At the conclusion of the scrimmage, Nighthawks Public Relations Director Kat Welch asked me who I would like to speak with. I gave her two names…and from the above, I think you know Anthony was one of them. When he walked up to me, his physique was impressive. He is cut, chiseled…game ready. I was enthused at this opportunity
Now, I do not pretend to be a professional member of the fraternal order of sports journalists. Not at all. But I do pride myself on keeping my thoughts straight and articulate and relaying them well. Unfortunately for me, z-e-r-o sleep since 6:30am the day before made this interview…less than seamless. Thankfully, I was dealing with a pro’s pro. Been there. Done that.
So when I stumbled all over my first question which was to be: “Watching your father and his attempt to elongate his career in Denver, can you see any comparison between what you are doing here in Omaha?” he did not miss a beat:
“I’m here to play the game I love and do it well. I’m trying to get back to the NFL and keep playing the game I love. That simple.”
I then asked him about playing in Houston/Tennessee and Oakland as far as his personal feeling of responsibility as a role model in the community of Omaha:
“Absolutely. There is a lot of responsibility to this community, these fans and this league. We just want to make the fans and this community proud.”
Having played both positions, I asked him to tell me his preference between cornerback and safety:
“As a defensive back period, you know, we’re the best athletes on the field. We have to be. The other guy knows where he is going, and we have to keep up and also make a play on the ball. When you do it right, it’s like poetry in motion.”
With that, I thanked him for his time and he, graciously, returned a thanks for mine before sauntering away towards whatever the rest of his afternoon and evening had in store for him. Just like anything else he did that day, I have no doubt it was met with the same swagger and competency I was witness to on the field.
Poetry in motion.
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