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THE BOY WHO ONCE WORE CUMBERSOME LEG BRACES BECAUSE HE tripped over his feet when he tried to walk now drives his massive body off the turf with such power and speed that it takes two or three opponents to contain him. The boy who, because of those braces, would sit and watch his friends play or would be picked last when he did play, now sits on the verge of NFL stardom. � To a mother who once wondered if her son would ever walk normally, the sight of the 6'2", 303-pound Glenn Dorsey, two-time All-America defensive tackle, wrecking havoc in opposing backfields is nothing short of remarkable. "To know where he's come from and to know where he's at now—it's like a miracle to me," Sandra Dorsey says. � In 1988 three-year-old Glenn was so bowlegged that doctors told his mother that his legs would not straighten on their own. He was fitted with brown corrective shoes and ankle-high braces connected by a bar. Dorsey doesn't remember much about those days when his body betrayed him. But he can still recall the pain of having to sit idly while his friends played, and he remembers the effect that the clunky braces had on his relatives. "My cousins didn't want to hold me because I was cutting up their arms with the braces," Dorsey says.
The braces would come off at age four, before Glenn started elementary school, when, Sandra says, he "was just ready to do everything." By age eight his legs were straight enough for him to play football. He had grown so big so fast (he was about 200 pounds by the fifth grade) that when he first played as a fullback in a recreation league near his hometown of Gonzales, La., he had to be weighed before each game because opposing players' parents believed he surpassed the league's weight limit. So before every game he would walk to the dressing room, bathroom or press box, strip down to his underwear and hop on a scale to weigh in. "He would always have to do extra work, exercise, just keep his weight at a certain limit to play," Sandra recalls.
He continued to draw attention at East Ascension High as a lineman, earning Parade All-America honors as a senior. A consensus top three college prospect out of Louisiana, Dorsey was sought after by a horde of college programs—including Michigan State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State—but made only one official visit, to LSU, just 20 miles from home. He verbally committed to the Tigers five months before his senior season.
In the four years since, he has become an intimidating mountain of a man who has been called "the best player in college football" on either side of the ball. But there's a part of Dorsey that will always be that bowlegged kid from Gonzales. It is that experience that fuels his unrelenting drive.
"I don't let anything dictate what I'm going to do," he says. "I always feel like I'm in control and I can do what I want to do. Just playing for my teammates, my family, my coaches, my friends, everybody, my hometown—I have all that in mind when I keep on pushing, because I don't want to let them down after they've done so much to support me. So I go out and give my best effort every time, no matter what."
It's that drive that would not allow him to quit when he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg in 2006, nor would it let him stand on the sideline and watch the '07 season despite knee and back injuries during the second half of the year. The season, however, was not without some scary moments. In the Tigers' win over Auburn on Oct. 20 Dorsey was locked up with tackle Lee Ziemba when right guard Chaz Ramsey intentionally hit the turf, rolling into Dorsey's lower right leg on an illegal chop block that sprained Dorsey's knee. "I don't think there's any question that [the play] was not ethical," LSU coach Les Miles said. (Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville apologized on Ramsey's behalf.)
Dorsey aggravated the injury in the Tigers' next game when Alabama guard Justin Britt fell on his leg in a pileup. He jogged off the Bryant-Denny Stadium field after the play and, after taking a stress test in the locker room, returned to the game. "He's the kind of guy who doesn't want to come off the field," says Bo Pelini, LSU's defensive coordinator in 2007. "He's nicked up, he plays. He goes out there and goes, and every time he's out on the field, whether it's practice, a walk-through, a game, he's 100 percent. He only knows one speed. That's why he's a great player. He's able to play through injuries where a lot of other guys would be taking weeks off. You don't see him take a week off, not even a play off. He's just different. He's unique."
It is because of that drive that Dorsey will leave Baton Rouge as the most decorated defender in school history. In 2007 he won the Nagurski (best defensive player), Lombardi (lineman or linebacker) and Outland (interior lineman) awards after a regular season in which he totaled 64 tackles, including 11 for loss, and six sacks. But what Dorsey brings to the field stretches well beyond what can be measured by statistics or hardware. "Obviously he's talented, explosive, has great technique and is tough, but he's a tremendous character guy," Pelini says. "He's a leader. He's just the total package. I wouldn't trade him for anybody. I think that he's not only a special football player, but he's a special person, and he approaches the game the right way. We're lucky to have him."
Lucky indeed. Dorsey had little to prove after a dominating junior season (64 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks) in which he was a first-team All-America selection. In a matchup that year with Auburn guard Ben Grubbs, who would eventually be selected 29th in the 2007 draft, Dorsey had eight tackles. He was a sure first-round pick, but after speaking with former Tigers teammate LaRon Landry, Dorsey delayed cashing in on NFL riches and returned to LSU with designs on winning a national championship and increasing his own draft stock. He saw the effect that returning for his senior season had had on Landry, a safety who came back for one last year in '06 and vaulted himself into the top 10 of the '07 draft. (He was taken sixth by the Washington Redskins.) "I was confident that I could come out and play harder and probably have a better season than I had [in '06]," Dorsey says.
It also gave Dorsey another year to be close to Gonzales, where he has become a bit of a celebrity. He was named grand marshal of the town's 2007 Christmas parade and often returns to Gonzales to speak at his former grade school and high school, urging the students who sit in the very classrooms in which he once sat to dream big.