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Driving Ms. Dorsey

Quarterback Son Sparked Move to Miami


Road trip? This one puts fraternities to shame.

Fire up the motor home, toss in a few kegs, hit the highway and follow your team out of town for the weekend?

That's child's play for Maggie Dorsey, who moved across the country to watch her child play. She fired up the motor home, hitched a Honda Civic to the back, tossed in a dog, two newborn cats and her computer, and hit the highway to follow her younger son and his college football team for two months.

Ken Dorsey could have played at California, five miles from his home in Orinda. Instead, he picked Miami, 3,000 and five miles away. So Mom drove for five days, stopping every three or four hours to bottle-feed the kittens, lumbering along Interstate 40 at 12 miles per gallon, passing Flagstaff, Ariz.; Gallup, N.M.; Amarillo, Texas, and Clinton, Okla.

She set up camp, literally, 20 minutes south of the Miami campus, using the 30-foot motor home as her office. She drove around town, and back to her space in the campground, in the Honda. And she never saw her son lose a game.

Ken Dorsey, finalist for the Heisman Trophy and quarterback of the only undefeated college team in America, chuckles at the antics of his mother.

"She is a crazy, crazy woman," he says.

He says it with love, and with pride. When he returns to campus after the Rose Bowl, she will not be there.

"I'm going to miss her," he said. "I'm thinking I didn't spend enough time with her."

Maggie and Tom Dorsey, the father of her boys, Ken and older brother Adam, divorced long ago; the boys remain close to both parents. Maggie runs her own business, developing data bases that help emergency response crews locate the precise spot a 911 call was placed. So long as she packs her computer, modem and cell phone, her business is portable.

Adam attends Florida State, defiantly wearing Miami gear around campus and driving eight hours, each way, from Tallahassee to Hurricane home games. And for one month in 2000 and two months this season, Maggie Dorsey followed her sons and moved her life to Florida.

"Their whole family situation is like a storybook," said Dorsey's roommate, center Brett Romberg. "Everybody is so loving. The mother is so nurturing. The brother drives down for every game.

"They talk to each other like they're on a TV show. It's like, 'Oh, hi, Kenny, how are you doing?' and 'Hi, Mom, how's it going? You're awesome!'

"I know it's not fake, but if you were an outside party you'd be, like, 'Are you sure that's the way they act?'"

Must be. Maggie stopped by to watch practice once or twice a week, to chat with Ken's teammates and coaches. One night during the week, and sometimes two, she shared dinner and a movie with Ken--and his girlfriend.

Time out: From the time the first zit appears, most boys are embarrassed to be spotted with a parent. Most boys would be mortified if they went away to college and their mothers followed them.

"Even in middle school, I'd drive up to school and my boys would let me give them a kiss, and their friends would be standing right there," Maggie Dorsey said. "It would never faze them. They're very, very affectionate. They're so loving. I'm just so fortunate.

"Kenny has no problem. I don't take advantage of him. I give him and his girlfriend plenty of space."

Not long after the Miami coaches wooed Maggie Dorsey's younger son away from USC and Cal, they wondered whether they had made a mistake. The kid was exceptionally thin, but they could send him to the weight room to work on that. He was exceptionally quiet too, and they weren't sure what they could do about that.

"We were worried about him," Coach Larry Coker said. "We thought this guy may not be tough enough to take charge. Boy, how wrong we were."

The leadership and competitive fire emerged slowly, and not always on the practice field or in the weight room, where the 6-foot-5 Dorsey bulked up to 200 pounds.

Running back Clinton Portis noticed how intensely Dorsey competed at video games, how he couldn't play just for fun.

"He always gets whipped," Portis said. "There are some video game fanatics around here. He comes out with a game plan, even on video games. But you can't execute a game plan on the video game, so he can't beat me."

Said Dorsey, "I hate losing, more than anything. To go out and play those guys is the most miserable thing, because I think I'm doing well but I'm really not, and they end up killing me. It's such a nightmare."

Cornerback Mike Rumph was astonished when, during a pickup basketball game, the supposedly mild-mannered quarterback was knocked to the ground, got up and threw the ball at the player who committed what Rumph thought was a meaningless foul in a meaningless game.

"I was like, 'That's the kind of quarterback we need,'" he said. "He'll get in your face. He ain't no scaredy-cat in the face of linemen."

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