This week’s launch party for Fourth Down in Dunbar was a big success. On Tuesday night David Dorsey signed copies of his book for a large crowd at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers, Florida, and the book sold out! If you missed the event and want to know what all the buzz is about, get your copy of the book here.

You can also check out a great photo gallery from the launch party, and watch a recap of the party on NBC-2 News.

If you want to learn more about the area known as Dunbar—the low-income, historically segregated neighborhoods of Fort Myers, Florida—and want to know why this area has produced nearly two dozen NFL athletes, don’t miss this book. Fourth Down in Dunbar tells how the same drug culture that ruined so many promising futures also served as motivation for football success.

We asked David Dorsey some questions about his new book. Find out why he decided to become a sports writer, and learn what it was like to share the stories of so many NFL players who overcame the obstacles in their lives and made their families and their hometown proud.

Fig. 16
Deion Sanders (No. 29) runs for yardage in his days as a Pop Warner football player for the Fort Myers Rebels, circa 1978. Sanders autographed this photo and gave it to his coach, Dave Capel. Photo courtesy of Helen Capel.

“Football goes beyond what we see on the field. In writing Fourth Down in Dunbar, I realized the best way to reveal the men behind the facemasks is to be in their hometown and to talk to them, their families and their friends and coaches during the offseason.”

David Dorsey. Credit: Lindsay Terry, The News-Press
David Dorsey. Credit: Lindsay Terry, The News-Press

Tell us what made you fall in love with football.

The roar of the crowd after last-second, back-breaking, game-winning field goals or touchdowns in the early years of my sportswriting career got me hooked. I love standing on the sidelines during games while most of my peers prefer sitting up in the press box. I just enjoy the sights and sounds and, yes, even the smell of dirt and fresh cut grass down on the field.

Why did you become a writer instead of pursuing football yourself?

I went to the University of Kansas, where even at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, I was too small to play offensive or defensive line at the Division I level. And I was too slow to play any other position and couldn’t catch the ball well enough to be a tight end. So I figured writing about the sport would be best for all parties involved.

I also enjoy writing about baseball and basketball. The Minnesota Twins, the Boston Red Sox and the minor league Fort Myers Miracle have been kind to me over the years. I also enjoyed stints covering now-defunct minor league basketball teams like the Florida Sea Dragons (coached by Rick Barry and later Kevin Mackey) and Florida Flame (coached by the late Dennis Johnson) and the arenafootball2 league Florida Firecats.

Fig. 12
Sammy Watkins IV, who grew up not far from where his great-grandfather was murdered, ended up being Lee County’s all-time leading receiver at South Fort Myers High before playing at Clemson University and becoming an NFL Draft pick. At age seventeen, he poses holding a football with his family: mother Nicole McMiller, father James McMiller, brother Jari McMiller and, in the front, sisters Markeisha (left) and Mykelah McMiller. Photo by Lindsay Terry. Courtesy of The News-Press.

Has what you’ve learned through your work changed the way that you perceive the sport of football?

Football goes beyond what we see on the field. It’s extremely difficult to capture the real lives of NFL players because of media limitations. Locker rooms are just open for 45 minutes, 2-3 times a week, and many of the players are rarely available for interviews. In writing Fourth Down in Dunbar, I realized the best way to reveal the men behind the facemasks is to be in their hometown and to talk to them, their families and their friends and coaches during the offseason.

What do you hope readers will enjoy the most about your book?

I hope readers will take advantage of a rare opportunity to learn about a select few NFL players who were driven to overcome the many challenges and obstacles thrown their way. I also hope my younger readers learn lessons from those who didn’t make it to the NFL and accept that there are other paths to success in life.

JEVON KEARSE AND MOM, LESSIE GREEN
Jevon Kearse hugs his mother, Lessie Green, upon being drafted as a defensive end by the Tennessee Titans in the 1999 NFL Draft. Kearse played at the University of Florida and North Fort Myers High School. Photo by K. T. Warnke. Courtesy of The News-Press.

What are you currently reading?

I recently read I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back, a great sports road trip book in which the co-authors venture to 30 big-league ballparks in 30 days.

Who are your favorite authors, and how have they influenced or informed your own work?

Lee Child has influenced my work because of his short sentences. As for sportswriting, I enjoy the work of our staff writers at The News-Press and just about anything published in Sports Illustrated, especially that of Steve Rushin, the best wordsmith in the business.

What are you working on next?

I’ll be covering the 2014 high school football season in Southwest Florida for The News-Press and will explore the planning of a second book.

Do you have one sentence of advice for new authors?

I will borrow the same advice I received from novelist Randy Wayne White: be relentless. When someone tells you no or closes a door on you, don’t give up. Look for another door to open, and in the meantime, keep reading, keep writing, keep learning.

Rams vs. Buccaneers
Earnest Graham leaves the St. Louis Rams defense behind him on his way to the end zone for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 23, 2007, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Photo by John David Emmett. Courtesy of The News-Press.
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