Ken Dorsey - Miami QB has quirky habit -- winning

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Ken Dorsey walks around the hotel ballroom in circles, passing his teammates again and again. The other players don't pay attention, knowing this is one of his many pregame rituals.

He continues around the room until it's time to leave for the stadium. His routine has just begun.

Dorsey is quite superstitious. Many athletes are, but the Miami Hurricanes' junior quarterback has some of the quirkiest habits in college football. They define Dorsey, one of the most consistent signal callers in the country and a Heisman Trophy contender.

"If something happens once and works, it's something that just latches on," Dorsey says.

Dorsey's superstitions mostly deal with his pregame routine and are usually related to appearance, music and travel.

He wears two rubber bands on his left wrist, a practice teammate Jarrett Payton talked him into as a freshman. Dorsey takes them off only when he sleeps.

"I just liked them because they're fun to play with," he says. "They're more stress releasers than anything else."

One of them broke the week Miami played Pittsburgh, and Dorsey was so worried about something bad happening, he taped it back together. He didn't even think about replacing it.

He only changes them when he gets a haircut. And he only gets haircuts before big games -- and the Panthers didn't fall into that category this season. He had haircuts before Penn State, Florida State and Syracuse -- the last one lasted him through two other big games, Washington and Virginia Tech.

He already has plans for a haircut before the Rose Bowl on Jan. 3, when No. 1 Miami (11-0) most likely will play Tennessee or Nebraska.

Dorsey certainly will go through his usual pregame routine before the Bowl Championship Series national title game.

It starts in the hotel, where Dorsey walks around his teammates in circles. "Everyone makes fun of me because they see me pass like 50 times," he says.

Then Dorsey gets on the bus and starts counting the rows to make sure he sits in the same seat every time. On the way to the stadium, he listens to the same two songs on his compact disc player -- and always in the same order -- although he won't divulge which songs.

He even tries to time the second song so it ends just as the bus is coming to a stop. This gets tricky on the road because he is never exactly sure how long the ride will be.

"Every time I've stopped it to restart the song, I've had a bad game," he says, explaining that it happened at Washington last season and at Boston College last month.

The routines aren't limited to games, either.

Each night after the drive home, Dorsey makes sure his car stereo is on the first preset. And he always listens to the same stations in order during his 6:15 a.m. trip to campus to study game tape for an hour before class.

The superstitions started in high school when Dorsey used to wear the same ragged T-shirt under his football jersey. But he thinks they may have been ingrained even earlier, possibly when he played baseball as a youngster and saw all the superstitions on and around the diamond.

And Dorsey figures parts of them carried over to football, the sport he started playing as a receiver in middle school before switching to quarterback as a freshman at Miramonte High in Orinda, Calif.

"His sophomore year, he was something special," Miramonte coach Floyd Burnsed said. "The decisions he made, the competitive ability, the way he started throwing the ball, were big-time plays for a young kid."

At Miami, Dorsey has 58 career touchdown passes -- 10 more than the previous school record held by Steve Walsh and Vinny Testaverde -- and just 16 interceptions. He also has 6,196 yards passing, second only to Gino Torretta (7,690). Even more important for the Hurricanes, Dorsey is 26-1 as a starter.

Testaverde (1986) and Torretta (1992) won the Heisman Trophy on undefeated teams that were playing for a national title.

But should Dorsey win it, too?

"We're not very good without Ken Dorsey on offense," Hurricanes coach Larry Coker says. "That's pretty well documented. We know that, so he gets our vote for the Heisman Trophy."

But for Dorsey -- especially being so superstitious -- thinking or talking about the Heisman Trophy might jinx the outcome.

"I've never set it as one of my goals, to actually go out and try to win the Heisman," he says. "It's not a goal, but it's an honor to be even thought of in that category."


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