The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently promoted Demar Dotson to the top of the depth chart at right tackle, capping an incredible and improbable rise for the fourth-year player.
Dotson never played football in high school, and only took up the sport as a senior at Southern Miss, where he had previously been a member of the Golden Eagles' basketball team.
A weight room freak who could bench press more than any other athlete at Southern Miss – on either the football or basketball team – Dotson had the sort of size and strength that caught the eye of the Southern Miss football coaches. With one year of college eligibility remaining after his senior basketball season, Dotson was talked into a transition to the gridiron for that final season. He ended up seeing action in six games, with one start.
Flash forward a few years, and it's clear that was a life-changing move, though the payoff didn't come all at once.
"It's been a tough road," admitted Dotson, who played defensive line for the Golden Eagles before signing with the Bucs as a very raw OL prospect. "I'd never played the game before, never played the position before. So to come out here, it's been a tough journey and God has got me through every step. I have a whole lot more to learn, but it's a process every day to keep working and never stop grinding. I have to keep God first like I always do and just keep doing what these coaches ask me to do and prepare myself every day to come out here and work."
That work ethic is surely one of the main reasons Dotson has been able to make such an incredible career switch, and being listed atop the depth chart won't change anything in that regard.
"It was a lot of hard work, but the hard work doesn't stop just because I'm starting," Dotson said. "I've got to continue to work at it every day. I've got to stay humble every day and continue to work and never stop working. I've got to show that I can be the best guy for this week, next week, and the next 15, 16 weeks to come."
Interestingly enough, Dotson credits Jeremy Trueblood – the man he just overtook for the starting job – with helping him earn his way into a more prominent role on the Bucs' offensive line.
"I feel I carried my own weight, but I still have a long way to go," Dotson said. "I'll learn from these guys like Jeremy Trueblood, who is hands down one of the better right tackles in the league. That guy has continued to teach me every day, and I'll continue to learn from him every day. There's no bitterness; it's all a friendship relationship. I'm going to continue to pick that guy's head every day."
Fresh off a matchup against the New York Giants and their typically stout defensive line, Dotson now finds himself preparing for the Dallas Cowboys and their pass rush dynamo, DeMarcus Ware.
Although he's gone from boxing out and collecting rebounds on the hardwood in college to doing his best to contain the fastest, most physical defensive ends on the planet, Dotson says he's relishing the chance to show what he can do.
"It's a privilege and an honor to have the job, but I continue to work every day and keep getting better," Dotson said. "That's my main goal. My work doesn't change, my effort doesn't change. I'm going to continue to work as hard as I did when I got here.
"[The Cowboys are] another tough matchup, and it's another opportunity to go out there and prove that I can get the job done," Dotson said. "I'm up for the challenge."