The exciting young running back was picked up by the Colts off the waiver wire after teams submitted their final roster cuts at the end of training camp. Dorsey, who Bengals offensive lineman Levi Jones referred to as the team's "Preseason Pro Bowler" was someone the Colts had shown interest in while he was displaying his skills at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
"He drew a lot of attention," assistant head coach Craig Schuler told ColtPower. "The teams that liked him the most were the Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Rams, Lions, and Browns. The Browns guy said Dorsey was the fastest guy he had timed that year and it was on a cold, windy, rainy day. If you look at his workout times, he would have been right at the top at the Combine. Physically there aren't many rookies in the league like him."
Schuler, who was also Dorsey's running backs coach, said that word spread about the 5-foot-10, 194-pound running back who was playing for the NAIA school in the Heart of America Conference on a campus of about 4,000 students. Most of the schools in the league are private schools with a church affiliation, but unlike NCAA Division III schools, the NAIA schools offer athletic scholarships. As scouts stopped by to clock him and watch him work out, others who hadn't seen him personally but learned of the others' visits and numbers took an "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude. So one by one they started visiting Lindenwood -- including the Colts scouts.
As they saw Dorsey's speed and talent, some wrestled with reconciling what they were seeing with their eyes versus the fact that this was a player who started his collegiate career at an even smaller college with about 500 on campus -- Ottawa University in Kansas -- before transferring to Lindenwood. The nifty running back had been a major talent at Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma and was highly recruited by major college football programs until he broke his ankle as a senior. That changed their interest to offers of walk-on status with no scholarships even though he finished his senior year strong when he returned towards the end of season. So Dorsey agreed to an offer from Ottowa University to play safety for them. But when the coaching staff there moved to Lindenwood before his junior season, he went along. During his junior year, when Lindenwood was down to their fourth tailback with about four games remaining in their regular season, they decided to give Dorsey a shot at the position on a bit of an impulse.
"He ended up being first-team all-American at free safety and was the only guy in the history of the conference who has been first-team all-conference on both sides of the ball -- and he only played running back for the last four games in conference play and the national playoffs," Schuler said. "His senior year he played exclusively on offense and special teams and led the league in rushing. As far as a big playmaker, you'll never find anyone who had a college career like he did."
Dorsey rushed for 1,600 yards and scored 18 touchdowns on the ground during his senior year. And as some scouts struggled to determine if the well-rounded superstar with incredible speed projected to NFL-caliber talent, others -- like the Colts scouts -- saw something very special in Dede Dorsey. And it didn't stop at what he could do on the field as a running back.
"He's one of the most humble kids you'll ever come across," Schuler said. "He's confident, but he has that self-deprecating humor…he makes fun of himself easily. He was a favorite here of people off the field as much as he was on the field."
And something else jumped out at the scouts when they watched some game film -- his incredible play on special teams; something that NFL teams love to get out of their rookies while they strive to work their way up the depth charts. There was no disputing that Dorsey had unique abilities in that arena.
"He's an unbelievable special teams guy. He blocked sixteen kicks (7 field goals, 9 punts) in his college career," Schuler said. "The Bengals used him some as a kickoff returner, which he didn't get to do much here because nobody would kick the ball to him; they'd just kick the ball out of bounds and let us take it on the 35 yard-line. But I think he could be a star as a kickoff return guy as well, because NFL teams will actually kick it to him."
Schuler expects Dorsey to make a big impact at the NFL level, so he was really surprised when Cincinnati exposed his former player to the waiver wire, hoping to slip him through to their practice squad. During the preseason with the Bengals, Dorsey averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 20 runs, which included a 46-yard burst. And while he only got three chances to catch a pass, he stunned the fans and his teammates with an impressive 59-yard catch-and-run that undoubtedly left some opposing players muttering, "who is that guy?"
"I think the Colts are really going to be happy because from a personal standpoint, the kid's always smiling and happy-go-lucky. He'll be a great kid to have around," Schuler said. "If he can handle himself in practice and give them some confidence where they'll put him in some game situations, I think he'll do some things that will shock some people. He could be a (Pittsburgh running back) Willie Parker-type of guy; I would compare him very closely to him from a skill standpoint."
Check back on Wednesday for our exclusive interview with DeDe Dorsey, an exclusive feature for our ColtPower Insiders! If you're not an Insider yet, click the 7-day free trial in the banner at the top of the page to give it a try!