In the middle of Kevin Dorsey’s time at Forestville Military Academy, football coach Charles Harley received a phone call from a startled passer-by.
Only the news wasn’t really surprising considering who was involved.
“Some kid was outside in the hail and he was running sprints with a plate attached to his waist — a one-man sled — in freezing weather around the track,” recalled Maryland tight end Devonte Campbell, Dorsey’s high school and college teammate. “His work ethic has never been a question.”
Should Maryland, which opens preseason practice Monday, struggle again this year, it won’t be for a lack of effort from Dorsey. The fifth-year senior established himself as a starting-caliber ACC wide receiver last fall, one of the few highlights of the Terrapins’ slog to 2-10.
There’s no doubt about his dedication to Maryland, either. He committed to the university before his junior season, and he’s back for a final season even after graduating in May with a degree in economics.
In between, Dorsey graduated high school a semester early only to undergo foot surgery the following August. It not only forced him to redshirt but also sapped him of some quickness that took time to return.
Not that Dorsey was interested in patience at the time.
“That was the biggest thing: How fast can I get myself back,” he said. “After a while, the doctors give you a result of what they’re projecting. Some say, ‘Hey, you may want to consider something else or it may be a year or two before you’re able to come back.’ I said to myself, ‘I hear what you’re saying, but it’s my body and I’m going to try to push that bar and see how far I can get every day,’ and I think I’ve gotten pretty far so far.”
It came gradually, first as a special teams ace in 2009 and a year later as a backup to veterans Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon. Last season, Dorsey led the Terps in catches (45), receiving yards (573) and touchdown receptions (three).
Much of his production came in the opening two games and the final two contests. In between, he suffered an apparent hamstring ailment that cost him two games and much of a third.
He also was limited at times in the spring, adding to his injury history. It was enough to prompt coach Randy Edsall to caution Dorsey about overworking himself.
“Kevin’s his own worst enemy from the standpoint of he’s a great kid, but he always wants to do more,” Edsall said. “We had a long talk about this. He wants to train until I think he draws blood from his own body. It’s like he wants to punish himself. We’ve tried to tell him, ‘Just back off a little bit.’”
That won’t happen easily. Dorsey, like many of Maryland’s upperclassmen, has endured a pair of 10-loss seasons and is uninterested in an encore in his final year.
“He’s been a big influence,” Campbell said. “A lot of people have seen him at a really high point and they’ve seen him at low points when he was injured and couldn’t play and had to miss games. The thing people can respect is his consistency. His consistency is what people try to emulate.”
That is likely especially true of Maryland’s inexperienced wideouts. Dorsey has 777 career receiving yards, more than the rest of the unit combined (735). Dorsey and fellow senior Kerry Boykins are the only wideouts with more than 100 career receiving yards entering the Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary.
But Dorsey’s impact will stretch beyond that as a veteran who clearly understands Edsall’s expectations.
“After last year, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, we’re not going through this [again].’ I said, ‘No, we won’t, either,’” Edsall said. “As I told them, you guys have to drive this team, not me. I’m going to give you those parameters. I don’t want to be around 24 hours a day doing that stuff. They have to do that themselves. When you have a guy like Kevin Dorsey, you know you can put your trust and faith in him to get that done.”
In typical Dorsey fashion, it’s not the only thing he plans to accomplish. After all, there is a turnaround he plans to push along as Maryland tries to reach a bowl game after last year’s titanic troubles.
“I can guarantee you now, we’re going to win,” Dorsey said. “We’re going to bring Maryland back to where it used to be. We’re going to bring it back to where our fans are proud to watch us every single game.”
Whether the Terps can do so this fall remains to be seen. Whether Dorsey will ceaselessly work to try to make it happen is not in question.