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FEATURE

FOOTBALL GREAT TONY DORSETT SCORES BIG WITH INDUCTIONS INTO THE COLLEGE AND PRO FOOTBALL HALLS OF FAME.

THE FAME OF THE GAME
WRITTEN BY DENNIS LOY JOHNSON
TONY DORSETT (ARTS AND SCIENCES '77) has the round face of a cherub who has nearly lived a charmed life. Nearly. Even fame as grand as his can't free you from life's sorrows. The 21-year-old encountered racism from white supremacists in Dallas when he went to play for the Cowboys. His fiancee died of a rare nerve disorder. His father died, too, right before a game. Even with the financial reward that his success brought him, Dorsett never could talk his dad into quitting the Aliquippa steel mill.

In 1994 Dorsett achieved the rare distinction of being inducted into both the college and pro football Halls of Fame in the same year. Now, on a visit to campus for ceremonies honoring the installations, the weathering around Dorsett's big, bright eyes disappears as he looks up from the sidewalk at the famous skyscraper looming before him. "Man, I'll tell you what, that is one hell of a building. I knew I was coming here the minute I saw that thing." And then, with a snort of amusement, "The Cathedral of Learning, man.... That's what I liked. "

He will later admit there were other factors that brought him to Pitt in 1973 (a surprising choice for the hot recruit, especially in light of the Panthers' losing record at the time). For one thing, it was close to home. Then, with Panther football coach Johnny Majors, "there was a bond instantly," he says. And of course, "My mom liked it."

But he sticks to the idea that his choice was made as instinctively and decisively as a move around a line-

backer: He simply liked the urban campus, which he'd never visited even though he was brought up only 20 miles away.

"It wasn't very different back then," he recalls. "Same buildings, same busy sidewalks. Oakland was

maybe a little funkier."

Once Dorsett's fame rose, he began to appreciate the setting all the more. "I was just a regular guy here then, man. I was recognized, but I didn't get hounded for autographs like I do now. Everybody on campus thenĄpeople were just so proud to be students here, you know? I miss those days."

And then there was the neighborhood. "I tell you, we had some big fun at Peter's Pub after that first Notre Dame win," he laughs.

Of course, the career that started at Pitt went on to even more spectacular highlights. The Heisman Trophy. Eighteen college records, most of which still stand. Professionally, more yardage than any other player save one. Two Super Bowls. And finally, the Hall of Fame inductions.

Dorsett becomes visibly humbled trying to describe his reaction to the celebration of his career. He has made numerous speaking tours of schools, both to support various scholarships he has founded, and, as he puts it, "to tell kids if I can make it, they can make it." Now, though, the man with the degree in communication can't seem to find the words.

Then his eyes drift across the street. He grins and speaks in the present tense. "That damn Cathedral of Learning, man. I've never seen anything like it."


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