Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett says he started playing football "not knowing that the end was going to be like this" -- what he calls a frustrating battle with a condition caused by head trauma that can lead to dementia and depression.
The former Heisman Trophy winner at Pittsburgh and Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys was diagnosed in 2013 as having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain condition. Dorsett told Dallas-area radio station KTCK-AM 1310 last week that he loves football and it was "good to me."
"It's just unfortunate that I'm going through what I'm going through," Dorsett said. "I'm in the fight, man. I'm not just laying around letting this overtake me. I'm hoping we can reverse this thing somehow."
In a lengthy interview with The Associated Press in 2012, Dorsett discussed the toll his football career took on his body and brain, detailing a helmet-to-helmet hit in a 1984 game that knocked him out. He called it the hardest hit he ever took.
"That ain't the first time I was knocked out or been dazed over the course of my career, and now I'm suffering for it," Dorsett told the AP three years ago. "And the NFL is trying to deny it."
Dorsett and thousands of former players have accused the NFL of long hiding what it knew about concussions and brain injuries to keep players on the field. The 60-year-old Dorsett opted out of a settlement between the NFL and former players that could end up paying out $1 billion. He said he wanted his case to stand on its merits.
Dorsett rushed for 12,739 yards in 11 seasons with the Cowboys and one with Denver. He won his only Super Bowl when he was a rookie after the 1977 season. He told the radio station he often forgets how to get to places he's visited for years. He has previously said he was troubled by short-tempered moments with his family.
"Some days are good. Some days are bad," Dorsett told the radio station. "I signed up for this when, I guess, I started playing football so many years ago. But, obviously, not knowing that the end was going to be like this."
Dorsett held the NCAA career rushing record for 22 years with 6,082 yards at Pittsburgh before Texas' Ricky Williams broke it in 1998. He said he'd still encourage young athletes, including those in his family, to play football.
"I would just be a little bit more concerned about certain injuries," he said. "When I was playing, my whole mentality was that if I could walk I'd play. Obviously, there's been a lot done for head injuries. They know a lot more about the brain and head trauma that can be created because of being knocked unconscious so many times."
His game was more about speed and finesse than brute force.
"That helped me survive in the NFL for as long as I did," said Dorsett, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds in his Hall of Fame bio. "The game eventually catches up to everybody. What you tried to do was to limit some of those head-on crushing blows. My running style and my size was not conducive to taking many head-on shots."