Outland Tropy history: Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, LSU, 2007 recipient

This is the second in a series of stories on Outland Trophy winners from 2006-2020.  From 1946-2005, the first 60 of Outland Trophy winners were profiled in the book 60 Years of the Outland Trophy by Gene Duffey. In celebration of the Outland Trophy’s 75th Anniversary we are catching up with the last 15 recipients.  

(Defensive Tackle Glenn Dorsey was the FWAA’s second All-America who claimed both the Nagurski and Outland trophies in the same season. The LSU star was selected fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He played five seasons for the Chiefs and four for the San Francisco 49ers. He will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame later this year (2021).  

By Gene Duffey, Author

Glenn Dorsey was not born to be a great athlete. In fact, he wasn’t born to be an athlete at all.

When other kids started playing games, Dorsey could only watch. He couldn’t run. He even had trouble walking. Dorsey, who would win the Outland Trophy as a defensive tackle at LSU in 2007, wanted to join the fun.

“I had a lot of energy,” he said. But he couldn’t do anything with it. “I had to sit on the porch and watch everybody else run around and play hide-and-go-seek.

“I was extremely bow legged. My toes pointed at each other. They made some special type of braces to straighten my legs.”

His mother, Sandra, knew the problem with her son’s legs was only temporary. “I knew he’d be able to do the normal things,” she said. “I just didn’t think he’d be able to accomplish what he did.”

Dorsey wore leg braces for two years. It only made him more determined to catch up – and pass – the other kids when he finally started running.

“I think that helped me become the person I am today, having adversity at a young age,” he said. “I wanted to show the whole world, you can’t let anything get you down.”

When Dorsey began running, there was little doubt in which direction he would go. All the males in his family played sports. “Football is a tradition in my family,” he said.

Dorsey’s father, Glenn Sr., played football in high school. But he grew up in a huge family, which limited his opportunities in sports. When Glenn Sr.’s mother had to take in her sister’s kids, putting 18 children under one roof, Glenn Sr. gave up football to help take care of the younger kids.

Glenn Jr. couldn’t wait to play football. His cousin, Jason Delmore, had played fullback and nose guard at LSU in 1987. Glenn wanted to be just like him.

His first opportunity to play organized football happened in first grade, playing guard for the St. Amant Wildcats. Unfortunately, the Wildcats weren’t very wild. Dorsey almost never played and the team didn’t win a game. It proved to be an inauspicious introduction to his favorite sport.

Next year the team and Dorsey improved dramatically. The Wildcats went undefeated and won their version of the Super Bowl. Dorsey, playing fullback and linebacker, was named MVP. He scored a two-point conversion and intercepted a pass.

Several years later Dorsey watched a tape of that championship game. “Watching back on film, I didn’t block anybody,” he laughed. “Man, what was I doing?”

Dorsey soon began playing against older kids because of weight limits.

There were tough times in the family. Glenn became close with an uncle, Daniel Douglas, his father’s brother.

Douglas was a big man and a body builder. He used to take Glenn to the gym with him and back to his house for ice cream. Douglas died Christmas Eve 1989 in an explosion at the Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge.  Glenn was 4 at the time.

“It was the first time I ever saw my father cry,” said Glenn. “It was hard on (my Dad). But we pulled together as a family.”

Dorsey attended East Ascension High School, his Dad’s alma mater. School came as easily to him as football.

“School was fun,” he said. “I always enjoyed going to school. My Mom never had a problem waking me up. Every day was an adventure.”

“He was always asking a lot of questions,” recalled Sandra Dorsey. “He needed to know everything.”

Dorsey played on the junior varsity as a freshman at East Ascension, lining up at guard and center on offense and nose guard on defense. He even kicked off and kicked field goals.

By his sophomore season at East Ascension, Dorsey stood 5-11, weighed 260 pounds with solid legs. He started at defensive tackle on the varsity.

His junior year proved to be a disappointment. His team went 5-5, losing several close games, often on missed extra points. That turned around his senior year. East Ascension went 10-2, losing in the state quarterfinals.

When Dorsey began following college football he quickly developed into a Florida State fan. He liked Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy and quarterbacked the Seminoles to the national championship in 1993.

He liked fullback Pooh Bear Williams and halfback Warrick Dunn, who was from Baton Rouge.

By his junior year of high school, the recruiting letters began piling up at the Dorsey home. His interest in Florida State had begun to wane.

“All the guys I liked at Florida State had left,” he said. “LSU was doing some great things. I’m kind of a homebody. I didn’t want to move away from my family. I’d be playing for my state, in my hometown. LSU was one of the top programs in the country, and it was right in my backyard.”

LSU won the national championship in 2003, beating Oklahoma, 21-14, in the championship game.

Dorsey committed to the Tigers in his junior year. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Michigan State and most of the SEC schools tried to recruit him. But LSU was the only official visit he made.

“I probably should have taken some other visits just for fun,” he said. “But it was LSU, LSU. I didn’t really give anybody else a chance.”

LSU coach Nick Saban visited Dorsey at East Ascension. “I was so nervous, the Nick Saban, the big-time coach,” said Dorsey. “He offered me a scholarship the next morning.”

Dorsey arrived at LSU as one of the big names in the recruiting class, which didn’t give him much clout with Saban.

“He was a real intense guy,” said Dorsey. “He never sugar coated anything. He got me a lot of times. They threw me in with the second team right away. I’d mess up and he’d get on me. How does he expect me to know this stuff? He was the Commander in Chief. But he’s a great coach, a great leader.”

Dorsey made an immediate impact for the Tigers. In the first quarter of the opener against Oregon State, in the rain, Dorsey forced a fumble on his very first collegiate play.

“This is cool,” he thought. “I can get used to this. But I knew there was a lot of hard work to be done. I made a lot of mistakes. Coach Saban’s defense was so complicated, we had so many checks. Every game was tough, there was so much I had to learn. Watching film wasn’t fun the next day.”

When Saban left for the NFL after the season, LSU hired Les Miles from Oklahoma State to replace him.

The choice of Miles thrilled Dorsey. Miles had tried to recruit him out of high school. “It was like a reunion,” he said. “He’s kind of a player’s coach. He’s not going to come up and curse you out, but he gets his point across.”

Miles even instituted a Unity Council for the players. “He changed things because of what we said,” said Dorsey.

Dorsey started only one game his sophomore season. But he played behind two excellent defensive tackles in Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten, both of whom went on to play in the NFL.

In the third game of the season Dorsey made nine tackles in a 37-7 victory at Mississippi State. “It let me know I could do some things here,” he said. 

Williams and Wroten were gone by the then. Dorsey became a junior and Bo Pelini had arrived as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. It didn’t take Pelini long to realize he had a special player at defensive tackle.

“About practice one,” said Pelini, who went on to become the coach at Nebraska. “Just the way he went about his business, his explosion. Obviously, he had the physical attributes. But just the way he carried himself. How he practiced. He never took a play off. Dorsey’s work ethic was second to none.”

Dorsey became an instant leader as a junior. “It was natural,” he said. “Everybody looked up to me in high school. I was forced into the position. I embraced it. I learned from two great guys (Williams and Wroten).”

“It comes from with inside the heart,” Pelini said of Dorsey.
“He’s a tremendous inspirational guy to all his teammates. Everybody rallies around him. He loves to play football. It’s fun for him. He likes what he’s doing and it’s contagious. He’s a special guy. He’s a throwback. I’ve never heard him complain about anything.

“He’s a guy you didn’t have to worry about in the classroom. The last three years he’s been special. He’ll be successful in anything he does. It’s gentlemen like him that makes you want to coach. He’ll be a part of my family forever.”

Dorsey developed an affinity for playing at Tiger Stadium.

“I loved it,” he said. “Our fans are superb. It’s an unbelievable feeling, like no other. It’s a rush. That’s what makes playing for LSU so special. I wish I had the opportunity to go through the whole tailgating thing. Friday morning we’d see (the fans) putting up the tents.”  

Dorsey could have left for the NFL after his junior year. Undoubtedly, he would have been drafted in the first round. Wisely, he decided to come back for his senior season.

“It wasn’t that tough (a decision),” he said. “I talked to my parents, a lot of guys, I prayed about it. Even when I got hurt early in the season, I never second guessed myself. I loved the college experience.”

His mother seconded Dorsey’s decision.

“We talked about it a long time,” said Sandra. “I wanted him to stay, get an education, enjoy it and mature a little more. I have faith and believe things work out for the best.”

They did.

LSU lost two games in 2007, Dorsey’s senior year, both in triple overtime. Somehow the Tigers still managed to qualify for the BCS title game and beat Ohio State, 38-24, to win the national championship at the Louisiana Superdome.

“The whole week was unbelievable,” said Dorsey. “The city of New Orleans embraced us. I was 100 percent. I got to run around like myself.”

In the eighth game of the season, against Auburn, Dorsey said he had injured his knee when hit by a chop block. “It scared me more than anything,” he said. “All this can be taken away from you.”

Fortunately for Dorsey, the Tigers had a bye the next week before facing Alabama. “I probably shouldn’t have played, but I’m stubborn,” he said. “I was basically playing on one leg. I was in pain the whole time, but it was all worth it in the end.”

LSU beat Alabama, 41-34.

Dorsey couldn’t take watching from the sideline. He had been hurt in camp and again against Middle Tennessee in the third game of the season, an easy 44-0 LSU victory. To avoid the risk of further injury, Pelini pulled him from the game.

“He kept fighting and fighting to get back on the field,” recalled Pelini. “I told him, ‘Glenn, you’re done for the day.’ ” Later in the game a trainer suggested to Pelini that they take him out of the game. Pelini told the trainer that Dorsey was already out of the game and wouldn’t be going back. The trainer pointed to Dorsey – who was still on the field.

“Coach, I just wanted one more series,” Dorsey explained to Pelini

The knee bothered him the rest of the regular season, but he was ready to go for the national championship game. The Tigers started slowly. Ohio State’s Beanie Wells broke off a 65-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the game. “We got caught up in the wrong defense,” said Dorsey.

LSU didn’t make many mistakes after that.

“We didn’t make any dumb penalties,” said Dorsey. “Everybody was bragging on the Ohio State defense. Our offense moved the ball up and down the field. (After the game) I just went numb. To call yourself national champions. To go down in school history.”

Dorsey said he didn’t sleep at all that night, partying with his family in the French Quarter.

A few months later the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Dorsey with the fifth pick in the first round.