A promising true freshman that had seen his playing time increase steadily throughout the season, Dinson was chasing down Texas A&M quarterback Kyler Murray when he was blindsided by Ricky Seals-Jones.
Laying on the turf at Kyle Field, Dinson said he wondered if that was it for his career.
Now a year and a half later, the redshirt sophomore is primed for big playing time at the nickel position in Auburn’s defense and couldn’t be happier.
“I mean, I remember it like it was yesterday,” Dinson said. “I was chasing the quarterback down and I got hit; I didn’t feel the hit, but I felt my legs go numb. At that time I didn’t know how bad it was; that was my first surgery, so I didn’t know how but it was, but my whole leg was numb. I couldn’t feel nothing. Like I said, long road, but I’m happy. I’m really happy to be back.”
Going through a surgery to do a total knee reconstruction was just the first step for Dinson as he also had to go through shoulder surgery as well.
Two surgeries and two lengthy rehab projects meant a lot of down time and a lot of questions for the defensive back, but he said thanks to a few good friends and one special Auburn veteran he got through it and came out stronger than ever.
“It was tough at first,” Dinson said. “First off, man, it was crazy. Sometimes I thought I wasn’t going to get through it, but I had guys like Josh Holsey—I love that guy—Carlton Davis, Javaris Davis, Ryan Davis—my guys that kept me positive and kept me going every day. It all paid off and I’m back out there with my guys. I feel good.”
The hard work went by for a while without Dinson revisiting the fateful play that almost ended his career. Unable to watch the vicious hit for almost four months, he said watching it allowed him to put the whole thing behind him and that included any hard feelings for Seals-Jones.
“At first, you know, it was hard to forgive him,” Dinson said. “That was when I was in the hospital, though. When I went back and seen the play, like for the first time, I ain’t really want to watch it, because I ain’t really want to watch that play.
“But I went back to go see it, and he was just trying to make a play for his team. I talked to my grandma and I forgave him, to be honest with you. He just tried to make a play for his team. It’s sad that it happened to me, but it’s just a football play.”
Dinson and Blake Countess at Texas A&M before the hit that ended his 2015 and 2016 seasons
Getting the green light to begin walking and putting pressure on his knee in December of 2015 so he could walk while home for Christmas, Dinson was forced to watch the entire 2016 season on the sidelines but by the end of the year he was starting to get the itch to get back on the field.
Feeling better and able to do some light work on the field, he said there was only one thing he needed to complete his journey and that was to put the pads back on for the first time.
“That was really important,” Dinson said. “At first it was hard watching my guys going out there on the field but my mom told me, just dress out, go out there with the guys. That felt good just being around family and knowing that one day I’m going to be back out there playing. That time didn’t come quickly, but it’s here.”
Able to fully participate in a few of Auburn’s bowl practices as they prepared for the Sugar Bowl, Dinson as ready as the Tigers prepared for spring practice. While his body was willing, he said there was still plenty of rust he had to knock off first before he was ready to really cut it loose.
“At first, it was like I had to get back into it, get back into the flow and everything like that,” Dinson said. “It’s like I never left, to be honest with you. I picked right back up where I left off from, so I mean, it’s amazing to be back out there.”
Getting his first real look at the speedy defensive back, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said he’s seen a guy that can help the Tigers this season because of what he brings to the table every day on the field.
“He can run,” Steele said. “He’s a smart guy. I didn’t really know that because he was so limited in practice until the bowl practices. Then we got him in spring and he worked at star and at corner. He has a very good skill set.
“I think probably the thing that is really pleasant is, not that I did not know it, I just had no way of knowing, is that he really has the skill set and the mental makeup to quarterback a defense. He can get you in the right calls, he’s a very, very intelligent football player.”
Now with the injuries and recovery behind him, Dinson is focused on playing alongside close friends Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis in the Auburn secondary. That would mean working into a starting role at the nickel where right now he’s battling Daniel Thomas and Mike Sherwood for playing time.
“It’s competition throughout the whole secondary,” Dinson said. “I come out every day worrying about Jeremiah Dinson and how can Jeremiah Dinson get better. How can I get better? I’m going to compete for a starting job. That’s what I want to do.”