He was supposed to be the decorated, can’t-miss junior college transfer to pair as a starter opposite Kentrell Lockett, his good friend, at defensive end. He was highly-touted as a five-star recruit out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the seamless transition Ole Miss sought to sign in 2010 after losing four defensive ends to graduation the year before.
He was inserted into the starting lineup the minute he stepped foot on campus, just a few months removed from signing his letter of intent. It was all set up so perfectly. He would make an immediate impact; keep Ole Miss on its course of consecutive nine-win seasons.
“I’m just blessed, man. I’m excited for the opportunity that my coaches have given me,” Dorsey said a year later.
The game was against Jacksonville State. A cakewalk of an opponent, or so it seemed.
Lockett would sit out this game with an irregular heartbeat. No matter, this was Jacksonville State. Allow the veteran some time to rest. Surely Ole Miss wouldn’t lose to an FCS opponent in its season opener.
Ole Miss lost the game in devastating fashion on a successful two-point conversion in double overtime. A half-empty Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was all but silent, sans the scattering of boos. Ole Miss had blown a 31-10 halftime lead. Unthinkable.
The team began its tailspin, following the loss to Jacksonville State with an uninspiring win at Tulane. Then a home loss to Vanderbilt. A win at home over Fresno State was overshadowed by the loss of Lockett for the year to the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Dorsey took the loss of Lockett harder than anyone else. “I look at (Lockett) as a brother,” he said. “Me and him, we’re alike in so many ways.” Here he was, Dorsey, all to himself. His best-case-scenario of he and Lockett doing damage together, what he envisioned when he signed, was over before it began.
“I know I’m alone as a man, but to see a teammate go down, especially one that you care about …,” he said, his voice trailing off.
His confidence took a hit, and it showed. His play was sporadic at best the rest of the way, Dorsey sometimes disappearing in games. In the process, Ole Miss finished with a 4-8 record. Every loss was compounded by the next one, the final blow a loss to in-state rival Mississippi State in the season finale.
Dorsey felt he had let his team down. Possibly more than anything, he felt he had let himself down.
“The start along with (Lockett going down), I think it shook up our whole team,” Dorsey said. “Nobody wants to start the season with a loss. And then seeing how close me and (Lockett) are, when he went down it felt like a part of me went down.”
A year later, Dorsey is out to prove himself; to show all the hype surrounding his arrival was warranted. He took to summer workouts with a renewed work ethic and maturity. He’s confident.
And it’s showing. Dorsey had five tackles, including a sack, in Ole Miss' first full-contact scrimmage of August practices Saturday.
“He’s getting his mojo back, man. That’s good to see,” senior safety Damien Jackson, who was Dorsey’s teammate at MGCCC, said. “I’m happy for him. Last year, he got kind of discouraged at times. He’s getting that mojo back. When he gets that mojo, it’s hard to stop him.”
Lockett sees a new Dorsey, as well. A focused Dorsey. A confident Dorsey.
“He’s come so far. Wayne is so much more mature than he was last year,” Lockett said. “Last year, just the little things would get him upset. This year nothing can get him upset. I mess with him all day and nothing seems to happen. He’s at a level of maturity now that he’s never been at.
“You’re going to see big things from him, I promise you.”
The 6-foot-6, 262-pound Dorsey played in all 12 games last season, with starts in the first four, totaling just 12 tackles and four tackles for loss. He eventually gave way to Jason Jones and D.T. Shackelford, a linebacker, who was moved to defensive end midway through the year.
He is currently rotating in and out with the first team in fall practices. Jones still holds one starting job, Lockett the other. But Dorsey, according to head coach Houston Nutt, is having “an excellent camp.”
“I have everything to prove. I’m out for my respect,” Dorsey said. “I feel like everybody on this defense is out for their respect. For me, I just want to keep getting better every day. Every day is another day to get better, and if I keep approaching it like that I feel like I can be whatever I want to be.”
“We need Wayne Dorsey to have the kind of year we know he’s capable of having,” defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “His body language and his approach this year have been much better. He gets it now, I think, and that will help him perform to his potential.”
Wayne Dorsey was always a confident football player. That is, well … nevermind. He is as confident as ever, Dorsey pushing forward, last season behind him.
“I definitely want to leave my mark here at Ole Miss and in the SEC,” he said. “I don’t want to be just another JUCO guy that passed through. I want people, when they think about JUCO guys, to think he’s (Dorsey) the one who set the bar, the standard for how JUCO guys come in and play.
“I want to leave my mark on this university.”