Stephenson On Legends

This year two of the top honors of the Walter Camp Foundation went to former Alabama players–Alumnus of the Year to Cornelius Bennett and Man of the Year to Dwight Stephenson. They were honored last Saturday at a banquet at Yale University. Today we conclude our coverage with Part II of the Dwight Stephenson interview. When the Miami Dolphins drafted you after your Alabama career, what were your first impressions of Coach Don Shula?

Dwight Stephenson: Once again, you go there and you are in awe of the coach. He is a legend. I had seen him on the sideline. I had seen him win. It was probably a good thing that I had experienced Coach Bryant. His system was already proven and worked. I came down to the Miami Dolphins where Coach Shula's system was proven and worked. I had great coaches all along the way. I was in awe of Coach Shula and Coach Bryant when I first met them and still today. They really helped me out and they really helped most people around them. Was it a very difficult transition from college to the pros?

DS: I was fortunate because of the way we played at Alabama, which was a very aggressive offense with the run. We attacked and came off the football. If there were 60 plays, 50 of them were running plays. We were attacking, coming off the ball, keeping your head up and trying to strike the opponent. So from that standpoint I was ahead of the game. But in pro fotball you pass the ball a little more and you can't lunge at people, so that took some adjusting. I worked harder at The University of Alabama than I did with the Miami Dolphins. The physical demand was less in pro ball, but the mental demand was more. I adjusted I felt pretty quickly. The Dolphins were a good team. I had a pretty good player in front of me to watch, so that was a positive. The adjustments were not that tough. What was your best performance with the Miami Dolphins?

DS: My best performance was probably the game when I first got a chance to play against the San Diego Chargers. Every play I was trying to get a plus. I came off the ball and I can remember the defensive tackle was a huge individual. He was probably three hundred pounds or more. He was a pretty good defensive tackle and I was able to put him on his back. That let me know that I could block someone in the NFL the way I wanted to block someone. That was the game that helped my career the most and gave me the confidence at least. When you played football, you had a passion for it. What is your passion now?

DS: My passion is what I do; I'm in the construction industry. If I'm not playing professional football or coaching it or being involved in some kind of way, this is what I really want to do. Construction and developing is something we enjoy. It's just as demanding and as difficult as playing professional football probably. I enjoy doing it. So we're doing okay with it. When you received the "Man of the Year" award, did you reflect on some people who helped you out in your life?

DS: Yes I did. I was able to brag about the people who always helped me out in my life. I had plenty of people help me out in my life. My father and my mother, starting with them, they have always been a big inspiration to me. They were probably my first great coaches. Then from there, going down to The University of Alabama and playing for Coach Bryant, Sylvester Croom, Coach Mal Moore and all the other guys. That was a great experience. Playing with some great players like Gus White, Terry Jones, Don McNeal and a lot of guys like Cornelius Bennett that came after me. There were a lot of great players that I played with at Alabama. Then Coach Shula. And I played with some great players in the pros. I have always had good people around me and they influenced me in the right way. If you had a chance to speak to a group of young people today beginning their journey into football, what words of wisdom would you tell me?

DS: I would tell them to appreciate what they have here. Don't take it for granted. Be humble because you have to understand and respect those people that have come before you, like the Walter Camp All-Americans and other people who have helped make this game what it is today. You have to appreciate the game and understand the hard work that is required to make it easier. Can you tell us about your charitable organization, which provides computers to kids?

DS: Its Dwight's Computers for Kids. We try to find kids in the community who need computers and expose them to a whole new world. Computers do open up a lot more opportunities for kids. We try to provide them with computers so they can go out there just like other kids and do reports and explore the Internet. They can be helped in their studies by having access to a computer. We have probably given away about 250 to 300 computers in the community. It's been easy to provide computers because the community has supported me. Go to Dwight Stephenson or Dwight's computer for kids. We have a website. Go to it and pull it up on the Internet. There is a number there on the website. We will be more than happy to pick up the computer and recondition them. Dwight, it's been a real pleasure to talk to you. Congratulations on receiving the Walter Camp Football Foundation "Man of the Year" award.

DS: Thank you. I appreciate it. It's exciting for my family and me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Arnold P. Steadham covers a number of special events for 'BAMA Magazine and

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