For all his agility, the greatness of Tony Dorsett is his toughness. Sitting back there in that I formation eight yards deep, he's great at running for the tough yards. I don't know what he weighs, 185 maybe, but he hits like 220. Shoulders level. God, he's a great player. I like to think that our guy, Eric Dickerson, will be like that someday.
LOS ANGELES RAMS COACH, 1983
Tony Dorsett, for 11 years a Dallas Cowboy and for a month a Denver Bronco, is conducting a slow, carefully paced workout at the Broncos' training facility in Denver. The trade that brought him from Dallas for a 1989 draft choice that could range anywhere from the fifth to the first round is four weeks old. In another week he will report to camp with the veterans. He's running striders, three-quarter-speed sprints, across the width of the practice field. On the sidelines, eyes narrowed, two of the Three Amigos, quarterback John Elway's collection of moving targets, watch him run.
"A 4.3 point, that's what he ran in Dallas in minicamp, a 4.3 point," Mark Jackson says to Ricky Nattiel. Jackson looks as if he is trying to fathom how a 34-year-old can still run a 4.38 40-yard dash. "They told Dan Reeves about it," continues Jackson, "and he said, 'Ship that track up here. I want our guys to run on it.' Then Dorsett runs a 4.3 point up here."
The mystery of speed. Did he really run a 4.3 point in Denver? "Something like that," says Dorsett with a smile. Says Reeves with a smile, "Well, he's awful fast." Keep the mystery alive.
"Last year defensive backs only kept one eye on the backfield," says Nattiel. "Now they'll just have to keep two."
"Hey, listen to this," says Steve Watson, the veteran wideout. "Tony's running with [second-year wideout] Sam Graddy, who's got world-class speed. Sam's sprinting, Tony's striding—and keeping up, step for step."
Dorsett laughs when this last bit of information is relayed to him. "I met Sam, but I never ran with him," he says. "Someone's pulling your leg."
The legend, the hope. Be great at 34. Be the old TD. Terrorize the defenses. Give us a terrific running game to go with Elway's rockets. Give us, after three attempts, a Super Bowl triumph.
"I want them to be bold with him," says Jackson. "I want them to run him down the pipe, sneak him out of the backfield and run him on deep patterns, terrorize those inside linebackers, make them double-cover him, give us some breathing room outside. Never mind those little swing passes and things. That's diddly stuff."
In the bright Denver sunshine Dorsett is rolling along near the end of a Hall of Fame career, and the Broncos are keeping their fingers crossed. Can he be a great back again? Sure, he was benched for Herschel Walker last year, but the Cowboys were on a youth kick, and their blocking wasn't what it once was. But then come the whispers from the past, the sad roster of fading stars who were shipped to new teams to rejuvenate tired running games.