- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
NEW ORLEANS -- Attention, please. Glenn Dorsey says he is healthy and feeling great, or as they say in opposing backfields: uh-oh.
The most impressive achievement by the LSU defensive tackle in his senior season is not that he won the Outland and Lott Trophies and the Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, becoming, as defensive coordinator Bo Pelini put it Thursday, "the most decorated defensive player in LSU history." It's that Dorsey won all that hardware while playing on one good knee.
Dorsey suffered a strained knee when he got chop-blocked against Auburn, and a bruised butt slowed him down more. Over the second half of the season, Dorsey said, he endured a series of frustrations and received a lesson in patience. As Dorsey and the Tigers prepare for Ohio State, it is all a thing of the past.
"I'd say about a week and a half ago, when we came back to practice for the bowl game," Dorsey said when asked when he felt good again. "That break we got was tremendous. I got to get my legs under me, get a lot more treatment, a lot more rehab. That did wonders for it."
When healthy, the 6-foot-2, 303-pound Dorsey takes the push and shove of line play and transforms it into great theater. He attracts offensive linemen as if he were an all-you-can-eat buffet, although he is the one who does the feasting.
"You watch him play," Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone said, "and there are some plays where he just puts people on the ground."
The knee strain extracted a pricey toll on his game. Though he finished third on the Tigers with 64 tackles, he played the last three games of the season without a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Normally, he explodes with such speed and strength into the backfield that he makes the most basic elements of backfield play a gamble.
"Last year, when we were in Jordan-Hare Stadium," linebacker Ali Highsmith said, "he came off the ball and hit [former Auburn tailback] Kenny Irons in the backfield and just lifted him up off his feet. I was wondering how he got off the ball so fast. I don't even think I took three steps and he had made the tackle already."
Highsmith couldn't see a difference in Dorsey's game despite the injury.
"He would not let you see it," said Highsmith, second on the team with 93 tackles. "That was his will to go out there and play to perfection, hurt or not hurt. You really couldn't tell."
Dorsey could tell. He knew what he could do. He knew that he couldn't do it. That is not fun.
"It was tough, man," Dorsey said. "I mean, I was in pain and I'm watching plays that usually I can destroy. That was the biggest thing. My body was hurting but the mental thing was just killing me. It was tough just to see that things I can normally do, I wasn't able to do."
Dorsey told himself to suck it up; everybody is hurt at the end of the season. He worked on his technique, hoping it would provide shortcuts to making plays that he usually found with his physical gifts. He tried to concentrate more. His effort won him even more praise than usual from his coaches.
"You could count on one hand the amount of players in the country who would have tried to play with what he had," Pelini said. It wasn't something that was going to be a long-term threat to his health. But he was in a lot of pain. He tried to fight through it and, really, gave more snaps than I thought [most] guys would have attempted. It just shows that's why he's Glenn Dorsey."
The sun is usually shining in Dorsey's world. His motor has been in fifth gear since he was a small child, watching other kids run and play while he wore braces on both legs for severe bowleggedness. He said he does not hold a grudge against the Auburn player who smashed into his knee.
"My family wasn't too happy," he said, laughing.
A mention of the various mock drafts that put him in a Miami Dolphins uniform next season as the first player taken in the NFL Draft elicited a shake of the head.
"Y'all have no idea," Dorsey said. "I try not to look at all that. I get mad when I go home and my family talks about it. 'Look, just please let me focus on this game.' I try not to worry about all that. I try to stay humble. I'm still a college athlete. That can wait."
Dorsey wouldn't be the first player to leave his best bowl performance on the award banquet trail. The list of Heisman bowl busts, for instance, is a long one. Ask Ohio State and Troy Smith. But Dorsey sounded insulted at the idea that his many banquets, not to mention being Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade in his hometown of Gonzales, La., could have made him soft.
"Who said that?" Dorsey asked. "I don't know about all that. I'm going to be ready to roll. I'll tell you that much."
That's good news for LSU. That's not such good news for Ohio State. A season that he described as "more challenging" is ending just the way he hoped when he decided to put the NFL off for a year and return for his senior season.
"I just wanted to push through it," Dorsey said of his knee. "I knew with time it was going to get better. And then we kept winning, kept winning. That made it a lot better off.
"Now that we're in the national championship game, what injury?"
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1dBrett McMurphy and Adam Rittenberg