It was yet another flawless, sunny afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9th, 2008, as two division rivals slugged it out underneathe a brilliant California sky. The game was actually very competitive, which was surprising given the sharp contrast between the two directions these teams were taking.
The San Diego Chargers were amidst one of Norv Turner’s infamous mid-season “wake-ups”–starting to gear up after a slothful start to the season. The wake-up would lead them to the 2009 playoffs, culminating in a defeat of Peyton Manning’s Colts.
The Kansas City Chiefs were tanking, and tanking hard. The Herm Edwards tenure was coming to a close. The team was subsisting on Tyler Thigpen, its third string pistol QB. The defense was among the league’s worst. And the team was careening into a 2-14 record that would put anybody in the organization not named Clark Hunt on the proverbial Green Mile.
The only reason I remember this disappointing loss, which this game surely was, was a moment in the second half. Rookie defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, getting his ass handed to him all day by Chargers left guard Kris Dielman, grabbed Dielman by the forearms after a quick snap by Philip Rivers, yanking him to the side where he rumbled through the Dielman-shaped hole in the line and thundered into Rivers. His first career sack.
His emotional celebration, short but passionate, illustrated that even during the most dire of circumstances, with disinterested fans and a hostile locker room, with an ax over everybody’s head prepared to fall by season’s end, there was still no chance you could simmer this man’s fire.
More, after the jump.
I do not know Dorsey personally, and I have never spoken with him. There hasn’t been a lot of ink spilled about his background; Google turns up approximately zero ”get to know Glenn” stories. I know he was a standup, standout player at LSU on a team full of players that graduated to the pros (including our own Tyson Jackson), easily one of the greatest defensive lineman in college football history. I know he cried with joy when he received his phone call from Carl Peterson right before he was drafted #5 overall in 2008. I know he shouldn’t quit his day job, and has the most nonsensical Twitter stream of any current Chiefs player.
But I also know how the man plays. And that can tell you everything about a person.
He has improved his technique, his diet, and his weight every single season he’s been in the league. He has had to make the difficult transition from a penetrating defensive tackle in Herm Edwards’ Cover Two 4-3 defense (specializes in elusiveness, penetration, and line-of-scrimmage disruption), a role he was born to play, into a two-gapping defensive end in the completely opposite defense, Romeo Crennel’s two-gapping 3-4 defense (where he absorbs blockers, gets double teamed, and anchors against the run).
His play suggests a mantra: ”leave everyone no choice but to keep me on the field.” Even though his body and his skillset were always less than ideal for the new position, Dorsey was the only defensive lineman Crennel leaves out on the field for 99% of the snaps in 2010. He plays obvious rushing downs. He plays obvious passing downs. He mans goal line stands. He plays nose tackle in the prevent. Despite a defense that doesn’t play to his strengths, Dorsey exists to defy you from ever putting him on the bench.
Unlike his time at LSU, it’s often his teammates, not he, that make the plays now. Brandon Flowers and Tamba Hali are almost always the first to congratulate the playmaker. Dorsey is often there too, but he’s usually the first back at the line of scrimmage, preparing his energy for the next down. Doesn’t want to get gassed. Always defying being benched. In a league where a rotation is preferred at defensive line, and as his teammates next to him shift in and out from play to play to play, he is always out there. Wrestling left tackles, slamming guards. Doing his best to keep them at bay so he can read potential run lanes.
Even in the occasional situation where he himself blows up the play, his celebration is self-contained: a boisterous scream with a dosage of furious arm-pumping. Then he’s back to the line. Glenn Dorsey does not, and has never complained. His body language is always defiant and he never phones in a play. Doing so would risk being pulled for a play or two, God forbid, and that’s blasphemy in his world.
One of the reasons I love and remember that random play from 2008 in a crappy loss to a division rival is because it illustrated that Glenn Dorsey is a Super Bowl piece. You cannot be a champion without littering your team with players like this, who play with such a relentless agenda and do so with absolutely no need for media attention and positive feedback. You build dynasties around players that will cheer just as hard when they get a sack in a game that barely matters versus doing so in the Super Bowl. You need players whose efforts actively force you to play them.
Whether Dorsey is ever a champion in this league, only God knows. And there are some days where he gets his ass kicked. Don’t mistake this as a “Glenn Dorsey for MVP” bandwagon.
But there’s a championship of spirit, somewhere, that’s awarded to each player that leaves it all out on the field. Glenn Dorsey is one of my favorite Chiefs, and I think it’s because he’s a lifelong winner there.