Tony Dorsett

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Tony Dorsett
refer to caption
Dorsett in 2009
No. 33
Position: Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1954-04-07) April 7, 1954 (age 61)
Place of birth: Rochester, Pennsylvania
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 192 lb (87 kg)
Career information
High school: Aliquippa (PA) Hopewell
College: Pittsburgh
NFL draft: 1977 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards: 12,739
Average: 4.3
Receptions: 398
Receiving Yards: 3,554
Touchdowns: 92
Player stats at

Anthony "Tony" Drew Dorsett (born April 7, 1954) is a former American football running back in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos.

From western Pennsylvania, Dorsett attended the nearby University of Pittsburgh, where he led the Panthers to the national title as a senior in 1976 and won the Heisman Trophy. He was the first round draft choice of the Cowboys in 1977, the second overall selection (from Seattle). Dorsett was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and played for the team for eleven seasons, through 1987. He played for Denver the following year, then retired due to injuries. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Early years[edit]

The son of Wes and Myrtle, Dorsett grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, northwest of Pittsburgh. He attended Hopewell High School,[1] where he played football and basketball.

As a high school sophomore in 1970, Dorsett started at cornerback, as his coaches did not believe the 147-pound Dorsett was big enough to play running back, the position he played in junior high school. In 1971, a competition between Dorsett and sophomore Michael Kimbrough for the starting running back position ended after Dorsett took a screen pass 75 yards for a touchdown against Ambridge during the season opener.[2]

Dorsett ended the year as an All-State selection after rushing for 1,034 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns, while leading the Vikings to a 9–1 season. He also remained a starting cornerback on the defensive side. In basketball Dorsett helped his team reach the WPIAL quarterfinals.

In 1972 he was again an All-state Selection, after setting a single game rushing record with 247 yards against Sharon, a single season rushing record with 1,238 yards and the career rushing record with 2,272 yards, while leading the Vikings to a 9–1 season. Dorsett was also a key player on the defensive side as one of the starting linebackers.

For all the ability he had, Dorsett could never lead his team to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs, because in those days the teams had to have an undefeated record. The team′s only loss in 1971 came against Sharon after Dorsett suffered a concussion and played less than a quarter, and the only loss in 1972 came against Butler while playing on a muddy field.

At the end of his senior season he played at the Big 33 Football Classic. This was the first time that his future coach Johnny Majors saw him play live.

As a tribute to him, the school retired his 33 jersey and in 2001, Hopewell's Stadium was renamed Tony Dorsett Stadium.

College career[edit]

At the University of Pittsburgh, Dorsett became the first freshman in 29 years to be named All-American (Doc Blanchard of Army was the previous one in 1944). He finished second in the nation in rushing with 1,586 yards in 11 games and led the Pittsburgh Panthers to its first winning season in 10 years. He was Pittsburgh's first All-American selection since the 1963 season, when both Paul Martha and Ernie Borghetti were named to the first team. His 1,586 rushing yards at the time was the most ever recorded by a freshman, breaking the record set by New Mexico State's Ron "Po" James record in 1968.[3] By coincidence, James, like Dorsett, hailed from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, specifically New Brighton.

At the beginning of Dorsett's freshman year at Pitt, his son Anthony Dorsett was born on September 14, 1973. Later in the 1973 season, Dorsett faced some criticism when it became known that his son was born out of wedlock, with some observers contending that he should drop out of school and marry his son's mother and financially support his family. Dorsett believed that the best way to care for his son was to continue to pursue his football career, a strategy that succeeded due to his successful professional career.[4]

Three games into his sophomore season, he became Pitt's all-time leader in career rushing yards, surpassing the old record of 1,957 yards set by Marshall Goldberg, who helped Pitt to a national championship in 1937.[5]

Against Notre Dame in his junior year, Dorsett had 303 yards rushing to break his own school single game rushing record. As a senior in 1976, he had a total of 290 yards against Notre Dame. He darted 61 yards on his first run of the season and tacked on 120 more by the end of the 31–10 Pitt win.[6]

As a senior in 1976, he helped lead his school to a national title, picking up the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award for Player of the Year, and the United Press International (UPI) Player of the Year award along the way as he led the nation in rushing with 2,150 yards. He was a three-time first-team All-American (1973, 1975, 1976) and a second-team All-American in 1974 by UPI and Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). Dorsett finished his college career with 6,082 total rushing yards, then an NCAA record. This would stand as the record until it was surpassed by Ricky Williams in 1998.

Dorsett is considered one of the greatest running backs in college football history. In 2007, he was ranked #7 on ESPN's Top 25 Players in College Football History list.[7] In 1994, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.[8]

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Dorsett was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the second overall pick the 1977 NFL draft. The Cowboys traded the 24th pick in the draft and three second-round choices to the Seattle Seahawks to move up to take Dorsett.[9] Dorsett signed a five-year contract for a reported $1.1 million. It was the second largest contract signed for a rookie. Ricky Bell beat Dorsett with a contract the same year as the first round draft pick for $1.2 million.[10][11][12][13] Dorsett played with the Cowboys through the 1987 season.

In Dorsett's rookie year, he rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns and won the Rookie of the Year honors. Dorsett was announced the starter in the tenth game of the Cowboys' season, and he would stay the starter for many years. Dorsett was the first player to win the college football championship one year, then win the Super Bowl the next, when the Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos 27–10 to win Super Bowl XII. In his sophomore season, 1978, Dorsett recorded 1,325 yards and nine touchdowns. The Cowboys once again made the Super Bowl, and lost 35–31 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

Dorsett's most productive season was in 1981, when he recorded 1,646 yards breaking the Cowboys franchise record.

Denver Broncos[edit]

Dorsett had a career total of 12,036 yards in Dallas before being traded to the Denver Broncos in 1988 for a conditional fifth-round draft choice. Dorsett led the Broncos with 703 yards and five touchdowns that year, but injuries prior to the 1989 season led to his retirement.[9]


Tony Dorsett Drive near Heinz Field in Pittsburgh's North Shore neighborhood

Dorsett rushed for 12,739 yards and 77 touchdowns in his 12-year career. Dorsett also had 13 receiving scores and even a fumble recovery for a touchdown. On January 3, 1983, during a Monday Night Football game in Minnesota, Dorsett broke a 99-yard touchdown run against the Vikings, which is the longest run from scrimmage in NFL history. Dorsett broke the previous record of 97 yards, set by Andy Uram in 1939 and Bob Gage in 1949. The Cowboys only had 10 men on the field at the time, as fullback Ron Springs was unaware of the play being called.[14] Despite the feat, the Cowboys would lose the game 27–31.[15]

Dorsett made the Pro Bowl 4 times during his career (1978, 1981–1983) and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 of his first 9 seasons. The only season that he did not reach the 1,000 rushing yards milestone was the strike-shortened, 9-game season of 1982, during which he led the NFC in rushing with 745 yards. He was a First-team All-Pro in 1981 and a Second-team All-Pro in 1982 and 1983.

Dorsett was elected to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and was enshrined in the Texas Stadium Ring of Honor the same year. In 1999, he was ranked number 53 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. He is the first of only two players in history (along with former running back Marcus Allen) who has won the Heisman Trophy, won the Super Bowl, won the College National Championship, been enshrined in the College Hall of Fame, and been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

The football stadium at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, is named after Dorsett and a street near Heinz Field, the home stadium of the University of Pittsburgh, is named after him.


Dorsett signs autographs in Houston in January 2014.

Tony's son, Anthony also played football at the University of Pittsburgh and played defensive back in the NFL from 1996 to 2003, making Super Bowl appearances with the Tennessee Titans (Super Bowl XXXIV) and Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl XXXVII).

Dorsett hosts the Tony Dorsett Celebrity Golf Classic for McGuire Memorial. This event, in its 17th year, has raised nearly $5 million in support of McGuire Memorial's mission.

Tony Dorsett has helped improve the health of current and former professional athletes through promoting awareness of sleep apnea across the United States. He has teamed up with prize-winning orthodontic technician David Gergen and the Pro Player Health Alliance to hold free public awareness events in local communities all over the nation. Dorsett has helped get over 150 former players successfully treated for sleep apnea.[16]

Health issues[edit]

In November 2013, Dorsett announced he had signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease found in many former football players, boxers, and hockey players.[17] Specifically, Dorsett referred to memory loss as the major symptom affecting him in retirement.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Price, S.L. (January 31, 2011). "The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 6, 2011. 
  2. ^ Finder, Chuck (August 4, 1994). "Tony Dorsett's Hopewell High coaches celebrate his Hall of Fame induction". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ Pitt's Dorsett All-America Pick. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – December 4, 1973
  4. ^ Millman, Chad; Coyne, Shawn (2010). The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, the Cowboys, the '70s, and the Fight for America's Soul. Gotham Books. pp. 185–186. ISBN 1592406653. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ Quick as a hiccup, Panthers Dorsett. The Morning Record – December 1, 1976
  6. ^ "College Football – Heisman Heroes – Suzuki presents Heisman Heroes: Tony Dorsett". (CNN). August 25, 2000. 
  7. ^ Winners. Retrieved on January 13, 2014.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Tony Dorsett had all the right moves and a brilliant NFL career". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  10. ^ Marshall, Joe (May 16, 1977) "This Agent's No Secret," Sports Illustrated.
  11. ^ Jares, Sue Ellen (June 27, 1977) "The Key to Pro Football Success: Good Legs, Strong Body and a Contract Negotiated by Mike Trope," People Magazine.
  12. ^ Hansen, Greg (May 3, 1977) "Bucs Get Ricky Bell ... Dallas Gets Tony Dorsett"," The Evening Independent.
  13. ^ AP sport writer, "Ricky Bell, Tony Dorsett are top two picks in NFL draft", The Modesto Bee, May 4, 1977.
  14. ^ Tony Dorsett #33 – Running Back at the Wayback Machine (archived August 5, 2007).
  15. ^ Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings – January 3rd, 1983. (January 3, 1983). Retrieved on January 13, 2014.
  16. ^ Jacobs, Kyle. "Public Relations". PRWeb. PRWeb. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ DiPaola, Jerry (November 6, 2013). "Report: Ex-Pitt star Dorsett has signs of neurological disorder". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved November 7, 2013. 
  18. ^ Alper, Josh (November 7, 2013). "Brains of Tony Dorsett, others show signs of CTE". NBC Sports. Retrieved November 7, 2013. 

External links[edit]