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Player spotlight: Darnell Dockett

By Compiled by BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- Coming to Florida State as the nation's top-rated defensive end a year ago, Darnell Dockett imagined he one day would be the next Reinard Wilson or Peter Boulware.

But a week before the season opener, Bobby Bowden asked him to move to defensive tackle.

How about the next Corey Simon?

It could happen.

"I didn't feel comfortable with it at first, but it was a team thing," Dockett said. "That's where they said they needed help at, so that's why I went over. Actually, I'm starting to like it."

Like most of the members of his highly touted recruiting class, Dockett sat out last season as a redshirt. While he recognized it's difficult for any freshman to play immediately at a top-shelf program, sitting didn't sit well with him.

"It was very tough; I was kind of disappointed," he said, adding that he considered transferring more than once but never more seriously than when Bowden suggested the position change. "At first, I was like, I came here to play defensive end and now I get moved around. Who says they're not going to move me again. But I just put trust in the coach. If this is the move he wants me to do, it'll turn out well."

He played on passing situations against Brigham Young and recorded his first sack. With starters Chris Woods and Kevin Emanuel injured a week later, Dockett saw more playing time against Georgia Tech and has started the last three games.

"He is really playing good," Bowden said. "He was a defensive end and he'd be just a pretty good defensive end. But you put him in there, man, he's like a duck in water. He really took right to it."

Dockett, 6 feet 4 and 265 pounds, has 29 tackles, sixth on the team and tops among the linemen, and three sacks, second to senior All-America candidate Jamal Reynolds.

Give defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins credit for so rapidly transforming Dockett into a force, helping FSU's young tackles spearhead the nation's No. 3-rated run defense.

Dockett has responded to Haggins' upbeat, encouraging style.

"I'm always positive with him because throughout his life, he's had a lot of negatives," Haggins said.

Both of Dockett's parents are dead and he lived with his paternal uncle, Kevin Dockett, in Burtonsville, Md., as a teenager. That's why the Maryland game Thursday was so special for Dockett. He had nearly 100 family and friends in the stands behind the FSU bench.

"I heard him calling my name on the sidelines a bunch of times; saying, "I'm so proud of you, to see where you're at,' " Dockett said of his uncle. "It made me feel good. I'm so glad I'm playing now. It makes me want to work even harder to make him even more proud of me."

- Extra Points compiled by Brian Landman.

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