Darnell Dockett ended his football career in 2016 after spending ten years with the Arizona Cardinals. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a second team All-Pro in 2009. He also tied the immortal Reggie White for most sacks in a single Super Bowl. He recorded more than 40 sacks in his career, good for seventh all-time with the Cardinals.
His pro career was remarkable. Not just because it was so good, but because of what Dockett went through to get there. Before everything, before all the tackles and the sacks at the pinnacle of his profession, Dockett walked through unimaginable pain and tragedy. When he was just thirteen years old his mother was murdered. Her killer has never been found. Four months later, his father passed away from cancer, leaving him to be raised by his uncle. Despite this, Dockett was once quoted as saying he doesn’t have any down days, and that he’s always cheerful.
Dockett eventually became one of the best in a long line of elite defensive tackles to don the Garnet and Gold. He was certainly one of the most imposing and ferocious.
But Dockett was imposing and ferocious long before he made it to FSU. As a senior high school prospect from Burtonsville, Maryland, Dockett was named Maryland’s Player of the Year. He was also named a high school All-American by Parade and USA Today. The Sporting News ranked him the No. 17 overall recruit in the country. And for good reason.
I remember watching @dockett90 playing when I was younger thinking omg who the hell is that. He was an absolute beast, the second best defensive player to come out the state of #maryland pic.twitter.com/RHmHc5qMVl— Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) September 13, 2018
He arrived at Florida State in 1999 to play for Bobby Bowden, choosing the ’Noles over Ohio State and North Carolina. He ended up redshirting his true freshman season as FSU went wire-to-wire No. 1 and undefeated national champs.
Most defensive tackles take years to fully develop and hit their stride in big-time college ball, almost always as upperclassmen. But not so for Dockett. As a redshirt freshman in 2000 on another loaded FSU team just fresh off a national title, Dockett won a starting job. He started the last ten games of the season, racking up 66 tackles including 19 for loss (tied for team lead), along with seven sacks (third on team). He also led the team in quarterback hurries with 18. He was named a 1st team freshman All-American by both Football News and The Sporting News. Football News also named him the Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
Dockett followed that up with a sophomore campaign that saw him set multiple school records. Despite receiving far more attention from opposing offensive coordinators in the form of double teams, Dockett would not be denied. He added another 68 tackles and 19 quarterback hurries. His 22 tackles for loss set a new single-season school record. He also recorded five tackles for loss against Georgia Tech that year, setting a new single-game school record. He was rewarded with a first team All-ACC selection.
Now one of the premier defensive tackles in all of college football as a junior in 2002, Dockett continued his run of dominance. He added another 57 tackles, seven for loss, two sacks, and 17 quarterback hurries. Despite lower numbers due to even more double teams, it was enough to break Ron Simmons’ career record of 44 tackles for loss; a record that had stood for 22 years.
Dockett chose to return for his senior season in 2003. He put up another impressive pain distribution chart: 55 tackles with 17 for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 16 more quarterback hurries. The national recognition returned — Dockett was again named first team All-ACC, but also a first team All-American by College Football News, second team All-American by The Sporting News, and third team All-American by the Associated Press.
In all, Dockett recorded 248 total tackles, half unassisted, with 10.5 sacks, and a staggering 65 tackles for loss (which, again, set a new school career record) and a frightening 70 quarterback hurries. His sacks and tackles for loss accounted for more than two-and-a-half football fields of lost yardage for opposing offenses. Dockett made his mark at FSU and rightfully takes his place in the history books among the best players in Florida State history.