Tony Dorsett has a Heisman Trophy; a Super Bowl ring. He’s got his name in the Ring of Honor and his bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Something else he possesses because of a life as a football player: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
The second-best running back in the history of the Cowboys (behind only Emmitt Smith) is suffering drastic effects because of the degenerative brain disease found in more than 50 deceased former NFL players.
“My quality of life deteriorates every day,” Dorsett said, in an interview with ESPN.
As a kid who grew up loving “Touchdown Tony,” it is heart-breaking news.
Now 59, Dorsett said the years of helmet-to-helmet collisions have left him with disorientation, depression and even thoughts of suicide. He was informed of the CTE diagnosis this week by UCLA researchers after they studied Dorsett for three months, according to an ESPN report.
“I’m being proactive with this, trying to cut it off at the pass, slow it down, what I can do,” Dorsett said to ESPN. “I’m going to fight this, but it’s tough. It’s frustrating as Hell.”
After 12 years in the NFL of repeated blows to the head and concussions, the researchers found in Dorsett an abnormal buildup of tau, a protein which can strangle brain cells. Similar conditions have been found in the brains of deceased players, in part leading to the NFL’s recent $765 million settlement of the “concussion syndrome” lawsuit.
Dorsett is Cowboys’ royalty. Second all-time in touchdowns scored, in rushing yards and of a record that will never be broken – his 99-yard run in 1983. News of his demise brings the national tragedy close to home. It makes you see a little more clearly the NFL’s attempt to tweak rules in an attempt to make its game less violent, more safe.
Next time you start to scream "Put a skirt on 'em!" or start yapping about the "Wussification of America," consider what a decade of helmet-to-helmet collisions has done to Tony Dorsett.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.