Miami cornerback Phillip Buchanon recalls the first time he saw quarterback Ken Dorsey on the practice field.
“I thought, we aren’t going to make it with this guy,” Buchanon said, referring to the 6-5, 195 pound Dorsey. “He was so tall and skinny. I couldn’t understand what the coaches were thinking when they got him.”
Once Dorsey had a chance to play, he answered all those questions, leading the Hurricanes to an unbeaten season and the undisputed national championship in 2001-02, capped by a 37-14 rout of Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. Tonight, he received the 65th Maxwell Football Club College Player of the Year Award, joining Gino Torretta (1992) and Vinny Testaverde (1986) as Miami quarterbacks sharing this honor.
In the win over Nebraska, Dorsey completed 22 of 35 passes for a career-high 362 yards and three touchdowns. Only a junior, Dorsey already holds the Miami record for career touchdown passes with 58, surpassing Testaverde, Torretta, Jim Kelly, Steve Walsh and Bernie Kosar. Even more impressive is Dorsey’s glittering 26-1 record as a starting quarterback with the Hurricanes
“You take Ken out of the mix and we’re a different team,” coach Larry Coker said. “He’s probably the best quarterback I’ve ever seen at leading a team to victory. He always finds a way to win.”
Dorsey was a receiver when he began playing organized football in Orinda, CA, but he switched to quarterback as a freshman at Miramonte High School. He found a home at Miami, directing the Hurricanes’ explosive offense. Prior to this season, Miami lost its top runner (James Jackson) and top two receivers (Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne) to the NFL, yet Dorsey still led the Hurricanes to a 12-0 finish, making them the only unbeaten team in Division One football.
“Ken Dorsey can throw on the move, he can change plays at the line of scrimmage and he is partially responsible for the excellent running game the Canes enjoy with Clinton Portis and Najeh Davenport,” said ESPN football analyst Bill Curry.
“Some people say anyone can run the exceptionally talented Miami offense, but this Mr. Anyone would not throw with Dorsey’s accuracy, nor would he get rid of the ball as quickly. When a quarterback has great skill athletes around him, he has to throw the ball on their break while they are running at lightinng speed. Dorsey would not have a 58 percent completion rate if he didn’t anticipate as well as he does while avoiding flying bodies and smashing helmets.”
“To say an average quarterback could execute Miami’s offense is the height of absurdity,” Curry said. “Dorsey has conducted the Hurricane offense nearly flawlessly. The guy simply does not lose.”
Dorsey is famous for his superstitions, which include wearing two rubber bands on his left wrist and wearing the same torn T-shirt under his jersey on game day. But it is hard to argue with his record of success. If something works, why change?
“The statistics, the (individual) records don’t mean that much to me,” Dorsey said. “I’ll just hand the ball off all game and be happy as long as we win. I don’t think people believe me, but I really don’t care, that’s just me.”