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Devin Bush

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Thanksgiving

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Winning the Fight of Their Lives

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‘Old-school people-mover’ describes Dotson’s style

The size alone makes you sit up and take notice. Big, thick shoulders, a neck built for head-butting Brahma bulls, sit atop a 6-foot-4 frame. He carries 321 well placed peoplepushing pounds of muscle power that can stuff a bull rush, evaporate a linebacker on the second level, or take a 3-technique for a ride with equal ease. Blessed with a grip reminiscent of Mike Webster, once he locks on, you’ll need a bolt-cutter to get him to let go. Be it run blocking or pass blocking, Kevin Dotson looks equal to the task.

Strength, quickness, agility, and a finisher’s attitude are all natural attributes necessary to be a people-mover in the trenches of today’s NFL. All of which Dotson seems to possess. And don’t forget the smile. Yeah, the one he flashes when he plays. The one where he whispers the upcoming play to his opponent ahead of the snap. To give his opponent a “sporting” chance, throw a little mental Jiu-Jitsu on him, before crushing him. It kind of reminds me of Clint Eastwood, when he grits his teeth and says, “Go ahead punk, make my day.”

I love talking about the trenches. I love talking about the men who slug it out there on a daily basis. Yes, the battlefield has changed. It’s true, the do’s and don’ts of close-quarter combat among the “Big Shaggies” have been altered to coincide with the ever-transitioning rules of engagement of today’s NFL. But it’s still the best balled-up fistfight between meat-eating Jurassic Park combatants available today.

And I say that because with the advent of zone blocking schemes, four wide receiver sets, and empty backfields, the game has moved decidedly towards passing. Two-point stances, once the rare stance of choice, is now the norm. Pre-snap smoke and mirror movement, with the emphasis on speed rather than power, and an aptitude for wide open spaces and attacking laterally, rather than horizontally, are the norms of today’s ball. Lost has been the attitude of “Rolling the line of scrimmage back on the other side of the ball.” The forgotten art of imposing your will on the opponent.

Certainly the drafting of Kevin Dotson, signals an ever occurring commitment to physically dominant people-movers up front. Says Steelers line boss Shaun Sarrett about Dotson, “What shows up on his tape is that he is a people-mover.” How can you not like that? There’s an old school mentality about the guy. When you can marshal the resources to attack, dominate and “re-locate” unwilling opponents, an offensive lineman has an advantage second to none. Ask any defensive lineman. It’s hard to remember your technique and assignment with a fist in your face while you’re looking up at the sky.

Durability? The man is a 52-game starter. “Since I was young, (my father) always told me, ‘Either you’re hurt, or you’re injured,’” said Dotson. “So there’ve been a lot of games that I’ve been hurt. I feel I’ve been hurt enough to get out of the game, but I knew I could keep playing. So I always kept playing.” Chuck Noll constantly preached the importance of being able to override discomfort, to know the difference between often than not, it’s the other guy eating dirt, to be sure.

And getting out on the hoof is important for other reasons, too. There’s many a time when an offensive lineman has to get down the field, either in covering after a pass, or getting to the pile to get around the ball. And though “Sheriffing” the pile, as it was called in my day (protecting a teammate), isn’t what it used to be because of the amount of fines being thrown about, it still has its place in the offensive hogs’ toolbox.

The third aspect of Kevin Dotson’s game that stood out immediately was his ability to sit on the bull rush and upper-body grapple with a pass rusher.

There’s a saying, “You can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe.” You’ve got to have a good, solid base under you to fire a punch. Dotson’s pass protection skills roughly resemble the “King of bull-rush killers,” the newly retired Ramon Foster. Nobody, and I mean nobody, could take the steam out of a bull-rush like the Big Ragu. Dotson, with his strong base, and good feet, should watch some film of Foster, and learn the art of positioning. Of making the man come down the middle of him, to center his weight back and down a little. Kevin might be a little head-heavy (weight forward) at times, but that’s COLLEGE STATISTICS Year Games Games Started 2015 Redshirt 2016 13 12 2017 12 12 2018 14 14 2019 14 14 Totals 53 52 youth, a desire to play with physicality and strength and a lack of game experience vs. the pass rushers at this level. But he’ll figure that out. That will come with reps, under the tutelage of Shaun Sarrett.

Am I ready to crown him the next Alan Faneca? Of course not. Not by a long shot. Obviously, the greatest challenges that await Kevin have to do with what awaits him. The quickness of the mutant pass rushers, the sophistication of the stunts, twists and blitzes, not to mention the fact everybody is better at this level. Processing the speed of the game, being able to conceptualize how he fits into the three-dimensional Xs and Os as they take life and move about at a high rate of speed, and learning to zone block will be some of his greatest challenges.

But this I know. You have to know yourself, before you can do anything else. Listen to Dotson’s words: “I feel like I’ll be able to play wherever they need me, but I feel like the interior is where I’m most at home. I just feel like my power and my agility helps me in that interior. So I feel that will be my best position.” I understand Kevin’s sentiments all too well. A phone-booth fighter knows where he’s best. Understanding personal strengths and weaknesses is the foundation for success and growth.

I also look to see how a young man represents himself, and every interview I’ve seen of Kevin, he displays a smile and a real “truenorth” enthusiasm for the game. Chuck always used to say “they can’t pay you enough to play this game.” Meaning, you need to find satisfaction in doing your job, at the highest level you can attain. Part of that is the attitude you bring to the locker room, the weight room, the classroom, the practice field, and the stadiums around the NFL. Every player falls into one of these categories: an adder, a subtractor, a multiplier, or a divider. Dotson appears to be an adder at least, a natural “energy-bringer.”

One needs to watch only one of his games, and his obviously combative/competitive nature jumps off the video at you, and quickly you’ll realize it all adds up to a win for the Steelers. A win on first down is 4 yards or more. A win in the fourth round is what the Steelers got, and his name is Kevin Dotson.

And I do believe the two wins are simpatico. Watching this young man get out on the field and compete is going to be fun. I look forward to it.

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