When he first learned about the relationship, years ago, Short tried warning the drug dealer off. The next time he saw the couple together, he punched Dorsett in the face. "But he's actually a pretty good guy," Short says, shrugging. "Just trying to get that easy money—and now he's going to pay for it."
People often describe the Aliquippa football program as an oasis in the desert. It's not that tidy. When asked if he'd like his two-year-old son, Jayden, who lives with his mother in Beaver Falls, to be a Quip, Revis hesitates, then says, "I don't want him in Aliquippa. If Aliquippa can pick their school up, and their coaches, and move somewhere else? Yes." But that's impossible. The team is the town, its pride and pain.
In July, Tony Dorsett returned for the funeral of his 61-year-old brother, Tyrone, a longtime drug user whom Tony could never pry away from Aliquippa. As he drove the broken streets, past the weeds creeping down out of wood structures as if to consume the place whole, past the monument to the workers of Jones & Laughlin Steel, he was hit by a force hard to understand. For the first time he told his wife, Janet, "Let's look at some houses." He wants to move back, maybe to Pittsburgh, maybe somewhere closer. "Every time I come back, the feeling's there, more and more," Dorsett said in September, steering his Chrysler 300 up Monaca Road. "It hurts me to see it, but this is Aliquippa. This is me. This is where I got everything."
He hits the gas going up Kennedy Boulevard, takes a right on Brodhead Road, crosses the border into Center Township and veers onto Chapel Road. His mother is up there now, waiting. Dementia has been a patient thief, but Myrtle still thrills to Tony's voice. He pulls into the driveway. She's sitting by the door and looks up blankly—face so youthful under the cottony hair—at the man by the black car now standing and waving. She wiggles her fingers back. "She's wondering who I am," Tony says. "She sits on the porch a lot these days."
Dorsett walks up the little path, shoulders squared, the usual roll gone out of his step. He leans down and hugs her, not too hard. The front door is wide open. Soon they'll have lunch, mother and son, in a dimmer light, survivors holding fast to all that's left of home.