Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.

I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.


 

Demar Dotson showed up in Tampa Bay in 2009 with nothing more than a promise of a tryout.

No guaranteed money.

No expectations.

Just a young, somewhat naive kid from Alexandria, Louisiana, who showed up in Tampa with a couple of changes of clothes and a pair of basketball shoes.

When getting ready for his first practice the Bucs trainer asked him what size cleats he wore. Dotson told him size 18. Tampa Bay didn’t have any that size so the team gave him the biggest pair they, a size 16 and after one practice, Dotson had to cut holes in the toe area of the cleats out so he could get them on his feet.

After another tryout practice during the rookie mini-camp of 2009 – and some bloodied toes – Dotson decided to just wear the basketball shoes he flew to Tampa wearing.

Demar Dotson – Photo by: Getty Images

Dotson earned a deal with the Buccaneers after practicing on grass in a pair of plain ol’ Nike basketball shoes.

“Now that I think about it, I kind of wish I had kept those old Nikes,” Dotson said. “It would be a good pair of shoes to still have for the memories.”

That was just the beginning of one of the most unlikely football success stories, not just with the Buccaneers, but maybe in recent NFL history. You might recall that the 6-foot-9 Dotson played basketball at Southern Mississippi, and just one year of football – at defensive tackle where he was primarily used to attempt to block field goals and extra points due to his height and long arms.

Dotson didn’t play football in high school and never played a snap at offensive tackle – until he got to the NFL.

Think about how difficult that was.

Now after 11 seasons of wearing the red and pewter, the next time you see the 34-year old Dotson on a football field, he will likely be wearing different colors.

The Buccaneers signed veteran Joe Haeg this offseason, and drafted Tristan Wirfs in the first round of last month’s NFL Draft to fill Dotson’s spot at right tackle. The recent longest tenured Buccaneer is a man without a place in Tampa Bay. Dotson was essentially handed on a one-way ticket out of Tampa on draft night.

But it doesn’t take away from the journey.

And the impact that No. 69 made.

Hollywood writers would have rejected the story of a basketball player turned 11-year NFL tackle for not being believable enough, especially since entering the league weighing about 265 pounds and having to add 50 pounds of mass to his lanky basketball build over the years.

“It’s crazy when you think about it now,” Dotson said. “I didn’t have any expectations when I came here. I was just a basketball player giving football a shot. Now here we are 11 years later. I have been blessed.”

It was believable because it really happened.

If by chance a Hollywood studio did decide to make a movie based on Dotson’s story, they would embellish the script a little and he would play one more year in Tampa Bay, win a Super Bowl blocking for Tom Brady and ride off into the sunset.

Bucs RT Demar Dotson
Bucs RT Demar Dotson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But this isn’t Hollywood.

It’s the NFL where what we perceive to be fair or a happy ending doesn’t really matter.

Organizations will keep a player around – until they can replace him.

It looks like Dotson has been replaced, especially with the recent re-signing of swing tackle Josh Wells, who is five years younger.

“You never say never, but I still think I can start,” Dotson said. “I want to at least be given the opportunity to compete. I don’t want to go through all the training and camps to just be a backup.”

Dotson is used to playing – not watching.

He has played in 130 games with 106 starts – with plenty of friendships made.

“I love Dot,” tight end Cam Brate told me on Wednesday. “I remember when I first got here, he has a different way of talking (being from Louisiana) and it took me a little while to get it. But some of the best memories I have had over the last few years has been getting to know him and listening to him. He is just a great guy to have in your locker room.”

Brate continued laughing as he recalled some of his favorite Dotson stories.

“I remember (former running back) Bobby Rainey, who was the smallest guy on the team, and Dotson, who was the biggest, going at it with him. Those locker room bickerings and going after each other were the best. They constantly went after each other. And it was great to see.

“And l would say even now, Demar is still – pound for pound – the strongest guy on the team. People have no idea how strong he is and how hard he worked in the weight room. And he was dominant at times. He might have been a disadvantage in the run game somewhat because he was so tall (6-foot-9), but he could dominate at times.”

Dotson laughed when I told him what Brate said.

Bobby Rainey was a weapon for Tampa Bay on Sunday – Photo: Mark Lomoglio/PR
RB Bobby Rainey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Me and Bobby had fun, a lot of fun going back and forth,” Dotson said. “But I’ve made a lot of friends over 11 years. I couldn’t have imagined I would have spent 11 years in Tampa Bay when I first got here.”

Someone else who appreciates Dotson is Bucs G.M. Jason Licht.

“It is hard to put into words just what Demar has meant to this organization, both on the field and in the locker room,” Licht said. “‘Dot’ has been a true professional in every sense of the word and he anchored our right tackle position for over a decade. As important as he has been for us on the field, his leadership in the locker room and the meeting rooms has had an even larger impact on our young players who have grown up in our system like Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa.

“Dot also has a huge heart and his work in and around our community over the past decade, especially with community programs like our Turkey Time with the O-Line, is just remarkable.”

His coaches and general managers have loved Dotson obviously, at least for the previous 11 seasons, and Dotson told me the respect was mutual.

“I’ve liked all my coaches honestly,” Dotson said. “Raheem (Morris) is one of my favorites because he gave me a chance to play in the NFL. And Dirk Koetter was a good head coach. I liked Dirk because he was a straight shooter. He just told you the truth and I respected that.”

But what about Greg “Toes on the Line” Schiano?

Former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Former Bucs head coach Greg Schiano – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Mark, you’ll never hear me talk bad about Schiano,” Dotson said. “Raheem gave me a chance on the team but Schiano gave me a chance to be a starter. I never had an argument or disagreement, he never cursed me out. I was raised to respect your coaches. To submit to their authority. I respected all my coaches.”

Reporters aren’t allowed to play favorites. But it sure is hard to not like Dotson and want to see him succeed. I started covering the Buccaneers on a full time basis in 2011, Demar became a full-time starter the following year. I cut my teeth covering this gentle giant of a man.

There wasn’t once a single time I called Dotson needing a favor and he didn’t come through. From quotes on a story I was working on, to a charity event PewterReport.com was having, to doing a live podcast taping. Dotson was dependable on the field – and for me – off of the field, too. No one made me laugh more than Dotson on a mundane Thursday afternoon open locker room session in the middle of a season going nowhere like Dotson could.

The end of Dotson’s run in Tampa Bay is virtually over, although Licht said the door isn’t  completely shut just yet.

“We never close the door on future possibilities, but he is a free agent and has earned the right to see what is out there for him,” Licht said. “I wish him nothing but the best, regardless of where he ends up.”

Dotson is holding out hope that a new team will call his agent.

“I’ve had some discussions with some teams and offers, but they weren’t right,” Dotson said. “But just like I trusted God 11 years ago, I have to trust him now. I am 100 percent content to just walk away and head into retirement if that’s where He leads me.

“I have been blessed over my career and will miss the Bucs fans. Not the fair-weathered ones that jump on the bandwagon – but the hardcore ones. Like Miss Jackie (Riles), Buc Nasty (Keith Kunzig), Priscilla (Williams) – the ones who were there through thick or thin. The ones who were fans at 2-14 just like if we had been in the playoffs. They made a difference to me and I will miss them.”

Bucs RT Demar Dotson
Bucs RT Demar Dotson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Life after football is uncertain, but Dotson has a strong faith in a higher power to guide him. He also has a ton of life-long friends he made in the locker room, in the stands and even in the media with the PewterReport.com team.

Football is a business. It will chew you up and spit you when it’s through with you and remind you that life isn’t always fair.

Yet Dotson isn’t bitter over the Bucs opting to go in a different direction.

“I’ve been blessed,” Dotson said. “I think I can still play and would if it is the right situation. Maybe as camp gets closer. Maybe even after camp, then a team will need me. But like I said, I am 100 percent content to walk away and head into retirement if that is what is the plan. I never thought I’d be an NFL player, much less have an 11-year career.

I’ve been truly blessed to cover Demar Dotson.


CANNON BLAST

Cook’s musings and ramblings about the Buccaneers and the NFL. Good stuff. Check it out.

• The Bucs schedule came out last week and as expected, the NFL schedule makers believe the nation wants to see more red and pewter this year. Signing Tom Brady will do that. Tampa Bay has five nationally television games in prime time, but surprisingly the season opener against the Saints didn’t make the cut.

Saints WR Michael Thomas and Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Saints WR Michael Thomas and Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: Getty Images

I am not sure how the league figured more people would want to see the Cowboys taking on the Rams on Sunday Night Football on NBC instead of the Buccaneers with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski traveling to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the Saints.

The two teams will face off on November 8 on Sunday night in front of the nation on NBC, but not opening weekend? That’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

• The NFL is still gung-ho it appears to get a full 16-game schedule in. That is good news for NFL fans but there are a lot of questions that still remain. Peter King interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci in his Monday column this week and came away with some ideas about how the league might have to adjust to the COVID-19 situation.

Photo by: Getty Images

One of the scenarios is to play games with no fans, or limited fans in attendance. And what about the media? Will we be limited or excluded all together? Will Bruce Arians and Tom Brady speak to the media via Zoom following games with reporters at home? Will each outlet only be allowed one member to attend?

And who is going to keep Ira Kaufman from double dipping in the chips and salsa? All questions I need an answer to. Especially the one about Sage.

• Speaking of the possibility of football with no fans in the stands, the Buccaneers might benefit from that the most. I mean they have been playing in front of small crowds for years now. But seriously, if there are no fans in the stands the opener against the Saints in New Orleans would get a little easier for Tampa Bay as the Superdome is always one of the noisiest stadiums in the league.

• I have never gone to a game in New Orleans – for two reasons. One is there is only about a 20 percent chance I would make it to the stadium before game time if I spent an evening on Bourbon Street. And two, the Mercedes Superdome notoriously has one of the worst elevators in the NFL.

According to former Pewter Reporter Trevor Sikkema anyway.

And anyone who knows me, knows elevators are my kryptonite. It’s pretty much my biggest fear. That, MRI machines, being held hostage in Gainesville while being forced to watch a Gators game, and chupacabras.

• If Demar Dotson does decide to retire, he already has his hands in some businesses and some ideas of what he want to do. Dotson is already an investor in the St. Pete and Tampa restaurants known as The Mill, and wants to get more involved in the restaurant industry down the road once his football career ends.

“I have a passion for the restaurant business and want to explore that more, “Dotson said. “But I want learn more. After football I’d like to get more education. Go to a restaurant school and get a two-year degree in management, or something like that. It is a passion but I really want to learn more.”

Last Laugh

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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geno711

A Mike Conti tweet today….

Dirk Koetter in a media conference call said about Todd Gurley today: “The main question, that no one seems to know, is what is his health status?”

Makes me really wonder whether we have any clue about Gronk’s health.

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Spitfire

I can almost guarantee that Gronk wouldn’t have come back if he wasn’t healthy. He’s not the type of guy to use the pandemic as a cover to slide into a team for a free payday. He was already working his after football avenues for a post football career. He came back because his Buddy is making one last run at a Championship and he is healed up and ready to finish on top with him.

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gibsonmx

Sad to see Dotson go. I know he struggled the last year or two, but he was the longest tenured Buc. He came in as a UFA and gave the Bucs some solid years at RT. Wish him the best of luck.

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Tom must not have liked him.

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NJBuc

A pros pro.. Thank you ‘Dot’!

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danielob

Wish Damar Dotson the best, hope he can come in as a depth piece later in the season if necessary or find a starting Gig somewhere else. Sad to see players you like just sent away but the NFL is a business, “what have you done for me, or can do for me?”, I’ve seen the same thing in Industry, bring in the cheaper young guy, good luck, see you later.Hope he lands on his feet, althought he restaurant business is not the one I would be investing in at this time. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes… Read more »

ManchesterBucc

DD has gone from earnings of about $300,000 per year in his first 2 seasons to averaging $4,500,000 for the last 4 seasons, so hopefully he has saved and invested well to have a long and happy retirement from football (unless there is one more season in him) after many years of reliably putting his body on the line for the Bucs.

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twspin

Say Mark, Great story here about Dotson. Always liked the guy. He played his string right up until the end. Football does not last forever. His time is probably up.Judging from his comments,I’m sure he will do just fine in the restaurant business.

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Spitfire

I’ll miss Dotson, I always loved how hard he worked, from a walk on to starter. It’s understandable how he had a few short comings since he started so late in football but he was reliable when there wasn’t much reliability on the team. It’s obvious the Bucs wouldn’t have minded having him as a backup but it sounds like if he’s gonna go through the trouble of training camp and practice that he wants to do it for a starting spot. No offense to him but with Haeg and Wirfs I hope there wouldn’t be a starting spot for… Read more »

Spitfire

P.S. Mark you are awesome. Your humor makes it all even better. I hate MRI machines too, my shoulders have to squeeze in and having to sit still while being squeezed in is the absolute worst. That’s coming from a Firefighter who has been in full bunker gear and had to crawl around in burning collapsed buildings, I’d rather be in the building, that should say something. Pro Tip: if you ever do need another MRI, check out the “Seated MRI” At a place here in Tampa. (I won’t advertise their name) but it is 1000% better and the only… Read more »

drdneast

I always liked the Dot and grew to admire him. He gave his heart, his body his soul to this team over the years without a complaint
It is a shame he can’t have one more crack at a postseason game but he is aware of how the NFL works.
I sincerely hope Dot saved his money and lives comfortable from here on out..

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Gatordoc1

I understand your fear of chupacabras. My friends had too many “Chupacabras” at a bar in the Dominican Republic. They don’t remember much of that day. I think one passed out in the pool and the other tried to do CPR. Best to stay away from that one.
All the best to Mr. Dotson. A class act.

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surferdudes

Dots a great story, good guy, but it was at least a year past time. The only way he gets signed anywhere would be if someone goes down during the season. By then, he might not be in shape, or want to. Retire a Buc.

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BigSombrero

Would like to have seen Dot lace them up one last year as a Buccaneer and train the rookie how to be a pro.

Thanks for being a great Buccaneer Demar Dotson!

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seat26

You have impressed from the very first day you came to Tampa. You might be a little gray around the temples, and possibly you’ve lost a step, but you dominated when no one gave you a chance. You were a nobody. And you ruled from the right side for a decade. Thank you for giving it your all in a position that rarely gets talked about. Thank you for guarding our QBs and paving the way for our RBs. Thank you for being an upstanding member of the community.

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toofamiliar17

I understand Bucs fans wanting us to bring Demar back as depth, but the reality is that he’s not a good fit as a backup OL. Most teams carry 8 OL on the active roster, and they NEED those extra three to have some versatility, to be able to plug in and play at a competent level at multiple positions. As great as Dotson has been, and as solid as he still is at RT, that’s unfortunately the only position at which he’s ever been even competent. I have no question that he’d be the best RT on some teams’… Read more »

Horse

Not sure if you are aware that in his earlier years he did play Right guard and left tackle; not necessarily starting at those positions though. most pass basketball players then football players are very very versatile.

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toofamiliar17

He did, yes. And he was a train wreck at both spots. He is and has always been too tall to play guard, and as great of a RT as he was, he was awful on the left side, and that was when he was a YOUNG man. I don’t see him, in his age 34-35 season and well into his decline years, suddenly being good at something he was so bad at back when he was really, really good at the things he was good at.

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fredster

So long Dot best of luck to you! It was time to move on, but he was a great RT for many years. Great person and human being as well.

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EricNV

Nice story, Mark. I wish Dotson all the best as well and hope he lands a starting job somewhere.

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Dman

Demar Dotson has been one of my favorite Bucs these past ten years. A bootstraps guy that just worked hard and represented us well. Thanks Dot.

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Horse

I have the greatest respect for Damar and I wish him the best. Thank you again Dot, you did good! Go Bucs!

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SaskBucs

All the best to Demar. By all accounts a terrific human and that’s a hell of a career for a BBall player UDFA.

Hope he gets on somewhere in the AFC and makes the playoffs. Wish it could have happened in Tampa but hopefully the reason it’s not is because the O line has been upgraded.

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