Tim Dwight’s most memorable play in an Atlanta Falcons uniform was also one of the few highlights in the Dirty Birds’ lone Super Bowl appearance. Dwight was traded to the Chargers in 2001, in a deal that gave the Falcons the first-round pick, which they used to select Michael Vick. Dwight finished his career in 2007, with stops as a Patriot, Jet and Raider. Blogging Dirty caught up with Dwight recently to catch up on where he is now and reflect on his time in the NFL.
The “Kamikaze Kid” was an All America with the Iowa Hawkeyes before being drafted by the Falcons in the 4th round. The 5’8” track star is best remembered for his 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIII in 1998. It was one of five kickoffs he returned in the 34-19 loss to the Broncos. His 42-yard average for returns is still a Super Bowl record. While the touchdown itself is etched in Super Bowl lore, Dwight said that opening the game with his hands on the ball for a 31-yard return is a personal highlight. “That’s one of my great memories I have down in Atlanta. What a great opportunity. Being able to be on the field and play and have the chance to return the opening kickoff – that’s something I’ll always be proud about,” he said.
Falcons fans are excited to see what will happen with the addition of Devin Hester, arguably the greatest returner of all time. Dwight said that Falcons fans should get ready for excitement when Hester is back fielding kicks. “Watching Hester is definitely worth the price of admission when you get the ball in his hands,” he said. Dwight said special teams are a strong suit for the Falcons, and the addition of Hester will only add to that. “Special teams in Atlanta have been fairly consistently good. They take a lot of pride in playing special teams in Atlanta, so he should do well, if he stays healthy,” Dwight said.
On overcoming a losing season
After Dwight’s rookie season, the Falcons had back-to-back losing campaigns. The Falcons 2013 was a disaster, and Dwight said the team will have to come together and decide en masse that they will conquer a losing attitude. You have to reflect on the previous season and find where you hit the “quicksand,” and then channel that into positive energy for the new season. “You get excited about it again, because it’s another opportunity to go out and make yourself better and wash the slate clean from last year,” he said.
On different teams
Dwight’s trade to San Diego found him a new home, where he now splits time between that and his native Iowa. He also saw opposite ends of the spectrum during his time in New England and Oakland. New England, Dwight said, is as tight of a ship as you have heard, helmed by Bill Bellichek and his well known taste for discipline. “It was really neat to see a team that tight,” he said. Oakland, meanwhile, was not the same atmosphere, although he said the raucous fans of Raider Nation get a bit of unfair portrayal. Some, sure, were over the top with their behavior. But most, he said, were happy to engage players. “Oakland gets a bad rap, but the fans are great. They love their team there and they’re passionate about it,” he said.
The game has changed
Dwight said he has seen marked changes in the NFL since his time as a player, most notably with the passing game. Receivers can no longer be jammed at the line of scrimmage, which has opened up offenses. New rules on crushing hits has led quarterbacks to try riskier throws to receivers. But is it good for the game? Not if you’re a defensive-minded fan. “It’s good for the wide receivers. It’s good for the quarterbacks. It’s good for scoring,” he said.
Safety of players
The recurring theme of player safety in the NFL is a common discussion topic these days, with concussions being at the center. But there is one area that Dwight feels is not being addressed with regard to player safety and concussions: the turf. “One thing I would like to see the league go back to — and I think it’s a big part of the concussion issue — is the playing field. It needs to go back to natural grass. It’s softer on your body. When you hit the ground and your head hits the ground, you’re getting hit twice,” he said. The new synthetic turfs may allow for track speed, but it also lets defensive players get an even bigger shot at offensive players. “When you’re hitting somebody, you can load up,” he said. Add the increased temperatures that come from artificial turf, and Dwight makes a good point that has not received much ink.
Fundamentals, Dwight said, are lacking in today’s up and coming football players. At his summer camp in Iowa, Dwight stresses fundamentals, even down to breaking down part of the time for 8-14-year-olds studying playbooks. And learning fundamentals is not just good for quality football. “I do fear the fundamentals are part of what’s missing in the game. Obviously, those fundamentals keep you safe,” he said.
The future of solar
Dwight is currently the president of ISETA (Iowa Solar/Small Wind Energy Trade Association), and is an advocate for the advancement of solar energy. Dwight’s reasoning for backing solar energy growth is pretty straightforward: “It’s the way of the future. The sun is the biggest generator. It’s free, it’s clean, it’s everywhere,” he said. Dwight lobbies for the solar industry, and said that continued growth will lead to immense job creation and innovation. Growth, he said, will bring with it a wide range of economic avenues to grow the economy. “Solar is 0.7% (of energy usage). When we get to 30 (percent), there’s going to be millions and millions of people working in this industry. The more you open up a market, the more and more innovation will happen,” he said.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons