Friday, October 28, 2016

A knee injury, USC ... and then Dr. Dossett

      (Third in a series)
      College football did not turn out as well as Drew Dossett had hoped it would. A damaged left knee cut short his career at the University of Southern California.
      Dr. Andrew Dossett's medical career has been a huge success, and still is, as we've expressed.
      So why USC when, in 1978 and early 1979, he could have chosen to attend college on a football scholarship wherever he wanted?
     He knew he would follow a pre-med curriculum, being a doctor had been in his mind for years and he had the grades it would require. So football was a factor -- and Southern Cal had been the national champion (split with Alabama) in '78.
     But why not LSU, which -- as always -- wanted any blue-chip prospect in Louisiana to stay near home? Sure, the Tigers could use a 6-5, 230-pound inside linebacker who could run and tackle, and was tough ... and smart.
     "Charlie Mac [McClendon] was a lame-duck coach," Dr. Dossett recalled earlier this week, and that proved true (1979 was the last of his 18 seasons as LSU head coach). But there was another reason.
     USC provided a "chance to punch out of the South, and I took it. I wanted to broaden my horizons. I knew I wanted to return to the South eventually [to live and work]. But I was never going to LSU."
     But he would be back on the LSU campus soon -- on the opposing team's sideline. 
     As his senior football season at Jesuit High in Shreveport ended, in the Class AAA state semifinals, and recruiting heated up, he had offers from "every major university in the South, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC ... "
     LSU was not even on the "visits" list. That included Ole Miss, SMU, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma and Southern Cal.
     "USC seemed like the right school," Dossett remembered. "I was interested in the city (Los Angeles) and the academics, and it was a good football program."
     Actually, it was better than good. The Trojans had a talent-laden roster (see below); a bright, young, personable head coach (John Robinson); a coaching staff that, Dossett recalls, "was pretty remarkable"; and a history of success, including Rose Bowl victories under Robinson in 1976 and '78.
      The '78 team's 12-1 record included a 24-14 victory over Alabama in Birmingham. Two games later, USC lost at Arizona State 24-14, and that cost it a unanimous national title.
     After the season, USC was voted No. 1 in The Associated Press poll, but the United Press International poll made Alabama No. 1 and USC No. 2. ("The coaches voted for Bear Bryant, imagine that," Dossett noted.)
     Still, Drew loved what he saw and felt at USC, and he signed the scholarship papers.
     Two months later, his football future was badly shaken.
      Playing volleyball in a P.E. class at Jesuit, "a freak accident" shattered his left knee. Torn ACL and a number of other problems -- Dr. Dossett, orthopedic expert, can detail them.  
      It looked as if there was no way he could play as a USC freshman in 1979 ... but he did.
      Dr. Billy Bundrick, the best-known orthopedic surgeon in North Louisiana, did the reconstructive surgery. Six months later, Drew Dossett was a special-teams regular for the Trojans.
      He would have preferred to redshirt, as many college freshmen do in athletics. But that particular year, Drew said, the NCAA rule was that freshmen could not redshirt.
      "They [the NCAA] twice came to our house to check out our recruiting process," Dossett said, "and they told us about the rule. I didn't want to waste a year, so I worked hard at the rehab -- three workouts a day -- and I was back. But I felt like I was only at about 70 percent."
Drew Dossett, University of Southern
California freshman linebacker-special
teams player, 1979 (USC photo)
      He was a young player among an accomplished, talented team.
      USC had four eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame players -- offensive linemen Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews, cornerback Ronnie Lott, and running back Marcus Allen. Tailback Charles White was the Heisman Trophy winner that year; Allen, his fullback, won it two years later at tailback. 
      The entire secondary -- Joey Browner, Dennis Smith, Jeff Fisher (future NFL coach) and Lott -- played significantly in the NFL. There were familiar NFL-players-to-be -- tight end Hoby Brenner and offensive linemen Keith Van Horne and Brad Budde.
      The coaching staff, among others, included three notable future Dallas Cowboys assistants -- Norv Turner, Paul Hackett (later also the USC head coach) and Hudson Houck.
      Turner, still coaching in the NFL, remains a good friend of Dossett's ("when our daughter was in college in San Diego, she rented one of his houses"), as does Houck, who is in a group with Dr. Drew that annually attends the Masters.
      Munoz was 6-6, 280 pounds -- "the biggest guy ever," Dossett recalls. "Now that's the tight end [in the NFL]."
      Matthews provided Dossett a light moment in their freshman year -- a reminder that he was from the South.
      "I was walking across campus one day, and I saw Bruce," Drew recalled. "He asked where I was headed. I said, 'I'm fixin' to go to lunch.' He said, 'Wait, fixin' to? What is that?'
      "It was the first time I realized that wasn't proper grammar."
      USC did not lose a game that season. Because it was his only season, Drew Dossett never played in a losing game at USC. But there was one tie. It was costly.
       Ranked No. 1 nationally for six weeks in a row, the Trojans had a 21-0 lead on Stanford at halftime. Then, as Dossett remembered, Turk Schonert -- subbing for John Elway at quarterback -- hit enough passes to save a 21-21 tie for the Cardinal.
       USC won the rest of its games, including a 42-23 rout at Notre Dame, and the Rose Bowl, 17-16 against Ohio State and gambling QB Art Schlichter.
       But Alabama went unbeaten (12-0) and was voted national champion, the last of its six national titles under "The Bear." USC finished No. 2.
       One game was special for Dossett, USC's fourth game that season -- Sept. 29 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. He told his teammates how raucous the crowd could be at LSU, and the game that night proved him right.
       It remains a legendary one. (See links below)
          The Tigers were ranked No. 20 and big underdogs to No. 1. But LSU's defense was dominant for three quarters and was trying to protect a 12-3 lead.
       But the Trojans' famed toss sweep took hold and two fourth-quarter TD drives won it for them.
       Many LSU people have not forgotten a "phantom" facemask call on a third-down incomplete pass that helped keep alive USC's late 79-yard drive for the winning touchdown that came with only 32 seconds remaining.
       It was arguably the best game of McClendon's last season at LSU (7-5 record), although the Tigers later lost only 3-0 to Alabama in a heavy rain.
       His left knee hurting, Dossett decided to take his redshirt year in 1980. When he hurt it badly again in spring practice in 1981, the USC team doctors "retired me." They told him, as he would tell Michael Irvin and Prince Fielder years later, that it would be in his best interests to not play again.
       "I was OK with that," he said. "I was scared to play. I was a shell of myself. The knee was unstable. I didn't feel like I had a leg under me."
       So he turned to academics, for good.  He graduated in four years with a degree in exercise physiology, summa cum laude with a 3.92 grade-point average. 
       He always wanted to be a doctor. When he was still in grade school, a visit to a young, smooth Shreveport orthopedics doctor, Carl Goodman, inspired him. "I told my mother, I want to be like him," Drew recalled.
       After USC, the road to a profession began at highly recommended University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. A huge jump in out-of-state tuition caused a year's delay as he established Texas residency.

       Once he finished med school, he did an orthopedic residency in the Parkland Hospital chain. Then, recommended by Dr. John Conway -- who had been the Texas Rangers' team doctor for 15 years -- and following his route, he returned to Los Angeles for a one-year fellowship in spine surgery, studying under Dr. Robert Watkins at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic.
      Watkins, Robert Kerlan, Frank Jobe (developer of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery) ... big names in athletics injury treatments.
      Jobe, Drew says, in fact offered him a job. But the aim was to return to Dallas.
      Watkins inspired his choice to be a neck/spine specialist. "I thought I wanted to be a sports medicine doctor," Dr. Dossett said, "but from a technical standpoint, the neck/spine surgery was much more difficult" and the challenge was appealing.
      Now his reputation is established, and growing, and the Carrell Clinic Spine Center opened on Oct. 3.
       Dr. Dossett's left knee continued balky and tenuous for years. "I could dunk a basketball off either leg when I was a kid," he said, "but after I hurt it, I could never dunk off my left leg again."
       After 10 operations -- 10 -- a knee replacement five years ago was a relief. He's in shape, saying, "I've been 225 to 230 pounds since I was 16, my wife has me eating the right things, and I exercise [stationary bike] on a regular basis."
       Better yet, he can play as much golf as his busy schedule permits. With an 8 handicap, he's a good and willing player.
       He remains in touch with his old friends from Jesuit/Loyola College Prep, such as tonight's 40th anniversary state championship reunion in Shreveport.

       "He is the man," said John James Marshall, the senior quarterback of the 1976 Flyers. "To think that in a field like that, he's that good. He's that in demand. He has athletes from all over the nation coming in to see him."
       LCP assistant principal Tony Rinaudo, like so many others associated with the school, is an admirer.    
       "He is a genuine person, a classy person," said Rinaudo. "He always was like that as a student, and he still is."
       Marshall says the key to Dr. Dorsett's success is "he was driven. Drew wanted to be the best at whatever he did."
        At Jesuit, Marshall added, "He knew he was good. The talent was there, but he wasn't braggadocios, he got along with everyone. You knew he was going to make something of himself.
       "... Even after he got hurt at USC and had to quit football, he just turned to academics and then medicine, and made the very best of it.
       "... I'm a big, big fan of his. I've liked him since he was a sophomore.
        "He is very driven."
        The Cowboys' connection with Shreveport-Bossier includes cornerback Morris Claiborne (Fair Park High/LSU) and, from Haughton (in east Bossier Parish), the rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott.
         "Nice young man," said Dr. Dossett of Romo's current (and maybe permanent) stand-in. Drew said when he introduced himself to Prescott, he told him that Haughton was Jesuit's main rival when was a Flyer in the 1970s. "He laughed at that."
         Prescott, he added, "is up to the challenge. He is one of those guys who gets it. The game's not too big for him."
         He declined to offer an opinion on the Romo-or-Prescott question. "That's for other people," he said. "It's not my responsibility."
         Helping Romo -- and many others -- mend and prepare to play, that is his task.
         And it's not time to tell Romo that he need not play any more. "It's an L1 fracture, and it's healing properly," Dr. Dossett. "Once he's healed, he'll be fine." 
         So you might spot Dr. Drew at Cowboys' games in the bench area among the big guys. Hopefully you won't see him on the field. If you do, you know the hurting Cowboys are in good hands.

Before the 2014 baseball season opener, Dr. Dossett and his staff
wished the Texas Rangers well. (Facebook photo)

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