If Dorsey Levens would have listened to his good friend Bill Harper, maybe Nike would have had to create a sequel to its famous "Bo Knows" campaign.
"I wanted him to play both basketball and football in college. He had that ability but I don't think he believed that he could do it," Harper told reporters on Saturday afternoon.
Instead, Levens had to settle for merely being one of the finest running backs in Green Bay history and induction into the Packers Hall of Fame with former teammate Antonio Freeman on Saturday night.
"My No. 1 goal that year was to make the practice squad," Levens said of being a fifth-round draft choice in 1994. "In my mind, my back was against the wall. I was going up against a guy in Dexter McNabb who was a good special-teams guy and he was the backup fullback. He and Edgar Bennett were very close. My goals weren't as lofty as they probably should have been, but it all worked out."
Worked out to the tune of almost 4,000 yards — good for fifth in team history — the most rushing yards in team history and one Super Bowl championship.
Levens' road to stardom was slow to get rolling. As a rookie, he touched the ball only six times in the regular season. But in the wild-card playoff game on New Year's Eve at Lambeau Field, Levens scored the opening touchdown — his first as a pro — in a 16-12 victory over Detroit.
"I was the backup fullback. As the No. 2 guy, I never played during the game," Levens said. "When we went through our practices going up to that playoff game, I went in there in certain blocking situations. We lined up in a set where I would normally block and I guess the attitude was, ‘Nobody knows who this guy is. Nobody thinks you're going to give him the ball.' And I got the ball."
That 3-yard touchdown was the start of something special. He emerged as the starting fullback in 1995 and became a valuable reserve in a halfback tandem with Edgar Bennett during the Packers' glorious 1996 season. It was in the playoffs that year — the NFC championship game against Carolina — when Levens made three of the biggest plays of his career.
After ripping off a 35-yard run on third-and-1, Levens beat Carolina cornerback Eric Davis for a leaping 29-yard touchdown reception in the front corner of the end zone. Those plays turned the tide and tied the score 7-7. Later, he added a 66-yard reception that set up the clinching score in a 30-13 romp that sent Green Bay to Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.
"The NFC championship game, I think that really put me on the map as far as a playmaker for this organization," Levens said when asked about his memorable touchdown catch. "That was the biggest moment for me. There were a bunch of small moments that led up to that. From Day 1, from being drafted to going into training camp and not being assured of a job, being the starting fullback my second year. There was a process, and it all led up to that moment where I, if you will, had arrived on the scene. That was definitely that moment."
Levens piled up 205 yards of total offense on that spellbinding afternoon.
"We were talking so much about how we lost the previous year to Dallas in Dallas (fo the NFC championship)," Levens said. "They kind of had — they did have — our number. We always said that if we had some playoff games here at Lambeau in January when it's cold — and we got what we asked for: 17 below (wind chill) — that we would make it to the Super Bowl. Going into that '96 season, our motto was ‘Super Bowl or bust.' We played like that the whole year. It was special."
The following season was almost as special. With an injured Bennett sidelined for the season, Levens compiled one of the most dominating seasons in team history, with his 1,435 rushing yards almost breaking the great Jim Taylor's single-season record. In an emphatic stake-to-the-heart romp against Dallas late in the season, he broke Taylor's single-game rushing record with 190 hard-charging yards.
Unfortunately, the Packers were upset by Denver in the Super Bowl, and the Packers' dynasty was over before it started. The loss still bothers Levens, but this day was about remembering individual brilliance with friends, family and teammates.
"I can't predict how I'm going to feel," he said about that night's ceremony. "I'm just going to live in the moment and just go with the flow. But I know it's going to be a special moment. Hopefully, I can keep my composure."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.