One fearless Bird
Kick returner Dwight could make a big impact Sunday
Posted: Saturday January 30, 1999 07:41 PM
MIAMI (CNN/SI) -- The most exciting player in Sunday's Super Bowl may not be Terrell Davis or Jamal Anderson or John Elway or any of the players on either team that immediately come to mind.
The guy to keep an eye on, the guy who can break open a game -- and give his coach fits at the same time -- is Atlanta's rookie kick returner Tim Dwight, a 5-foot-8 package of speed and pluck.
"I try to test my courage a lot in the things I do. Life is there to be enjoyed and I like to enjoy things," says Dwight. "I like to kind of spook you out."
Dwight showed a fearlessness in the NFC Championship Game that makes fans gasp and stand up and coaches look for the antacid. He'll return a kickoff from deeper in the end zone than most any player in the league. He'll field punts he shouldn't.
In the NFC title game, in fact, he took a punt over his shoulder as he was headed toward his own end zone, fielded it at the 1 and turned it into a gain of 26 yards.
It's as if he never heard of a fair catch.
"I kind of frown on that," he said. "I don't get on the field very much. I'm trying to get the balls in my hands as much as possible."
Dwight was even more daring with his kickoff returns, fielding them six yards into the end zone and never even thinking about staying put. For the game, he took four kickoffs 110 yards, bettering his season average of 27 yards a kickoff return.
"Tim has got extreme quickness and he is fearless," coach Dan Reeves said of his fourth-round draft pick. "I don't know anyone who turns it north and south as quickly as he does."
Fearless is one word. Reckless might be another.
But Dwight, a buzzcutted receiver from Iowa, doesn't see it that way.
"If you hit it on the run," he said of his deep kickoff returns, "it's like catching it on the goal line."
Dwight's speed and daring is so impressive, the Falcons have devised as many ways as they can to get him on the field. During the NFC title game, the Falcons lined quarterback Chris Chandler as a receiver and snapped the ball directly to Dwight, who ended up with three carries for 28 yards.
The Falcons may well have some special plays designed for Dwight in Super Bowl XXXIII, too. Because, if this game ends up being as tight as many suspect it might, Dwight may be the difference Sunday night.
"Special teams are the X factor. Not every team scores on a kick return. It's kind of a freaky thing that happens," Dwight said. "But if you have a good enough team, you try to make it happen."
Today's Obscure Statistic : The Falcons are the worst team in the league when it comes to gross punting numbers, averaging only 40 yards a punt. The Broncos, by the way, are second, at 46.2 yards a punt.
A Sign the Super Bowl is Getting Out of Hand : The Palm Beach Post estimated in a Saturday article that the NFL spent about $275,000 on the Commissioner's Party on Friday night, an invitation-only bash with free food and an open bar for about 5,000 guests.
Quote of the Day : "It's a big shock to a lot of people that the Atlanta Falcons are here. But if you take a good look at how we play football, you'll see why we're here." -- cornerback Ray Buchanan, earlier this week.
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