ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had the Broncos’ offense thrown Demar Dotson a socially-distanced birthday party last week, the guests may have been astonished at how an NFL player could have compiled so many candles.
Dotson, the Broncos’ starting right tackle after Elijah Wilkinson suffered a fractured leg, turned 35 years old on October 11. He is one of just 15 non-quarterback/specialists still playing in the league (see chart below).
"You know how it is when you start getting in your 30s," Dotson said in a sit-down interview with 9News this week. "People consider you old. And now that you’re in your mid-30s, people consider you real old.
"We run a lot of young guys in their 20s and they’re going to look at you as an elder statesman. At the end of the day, I’m glad to be here. Glad to have the opportunity to still play at 35. I think it’s a tremendous blessing from God.
"I never thought -- as I look back for a guy who played basketball and played one year of football -- that somebody would have told me that at 35 years old and your 12th season that you would still be playing football and playing in the NFL – one, if anybody told me I’d be playing in the NFL I wouldn’t have believed it. And two, if somebody would have told me I would be playing for 12 years at 35 years old I wouldn’t believe that."
He looks around at his fellow Broncos’ offensive starters and sees receiver Jerry Jeudy, who was just 9 years old when Dotson first played in the NFL. Lloyd Cushenberry III, the center, and tight end Noah Fant were 10 years old. Drew Lock, the Broncos’ starting quarterback today who will be counting on Dotson to keep him clean from New England Patriot pass rushers, was only 11 when Dotson was a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dotson played 11 years with the Bucs, the previous eight as a starting right tackle. He enjoys being around all that youth in his first season with the Broncos.
"Honestly, this is the God’s honest truth, this has been the best locker room that I’ve been in," Dotson said. "Even though I’ve only been in one place with Tampa, every year there’s so many different guys coming in and out, and the locker room changes every year. This has been a tremendous locker room for me.
"I didn’t know what I was going to get when I came here. New guys, coming to a new facility in a new environment. I didn’t know what to expect. But when I got here I mean everybody just embraces you. You look at it from the defense to offense, these guys are just fun to be around. You’re having fun with Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons on the defense, I mean, those are just good guys to be around. They’re fun. This whole locker room is fun. You’re joking with guys.
"I mean I’m having conversations with guys I don’t even know their names but we’re having good conversations and having fun. This is just a good group of guys to be around. It’s almost like bringing the youth back in me in football that I’m just so excited to be here."
Just think if the Broncos were 3-1 instead of 1-3.
Dotson’s football life has now come full cycle. He began his NFL career as a former college basketball player who was extremely raw in the game of football. He was athletically gifted as a rare 6-foot-8 tackle who could grab a rebound at one end, run the floor and lay in a basket at the other. But he also had no idea how to play the game of football.
And now at 35, Dotson’s body can’t do some of the things it once could athletically, but it’s his experience, guile and awareness that allows him to still play at the highest level.
"No doubt. Hell, my body definitely isn’t doing what it could do five years – not even three years ago," Dotson said. "I definitely feel it. There’s certain things I have to change about my game because what I did two years ago is hard to do now. You can see it. With stuff hurting, the things that you go through but the mental part of the game – this game is way more mental than it is physical.
"I think that has helped me out that I can kind of see things before it happens and put myself in a better position where I don’t have to overexert myself too much physically. That mental part is something I have to hang on and rely on."
His intelligence and mentorship will be needed today in helping the Broncos’ offensive front line go up against the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots. Both teams have had two weeks between games as their originally scheduled game for last Sunday was pushed back twice out of COVID-19 concerns.
Which means Belichick – who has led the Pats to nine Super Bowls, winning six, while his average regular-season record the previous 19 seasons was 12-4 – has had two weeks to game plan on how to attack the Broncos’ offensive line.
"Everyone knows Bill is a Mastermind in this game," Dotson said. "He’s always going to have something up his sleeve. We’re expecting a whole lot of twists, a lot of gimmicks on defense. They don’t do a lot of one-on-one rushing, but they do a lot of twists, they’re going to try to chip the tight ends on their way out. And a lot of blitzing. There’s going to be a lot of stuff that Bill’s going to throw at us so we have to be prepared for anything and everything."
NFL players 35 years and over
(Does not include QBs, kickers, punters, long snappers)
Andrew Whitworth, LT, 38, Rams
Jason Peters, LT, 38, Eagles
Jason Witten, TE, 38, Raiders
Thomas Davis, LB, 37, Washington
Frank Gore, RB, 37, Jets
Richie Incognito, G, 37, Raiders
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, 37, Cardinals
Johnathan Joseph, CB, 36, Titans
Marcedes Lewis, TE, 36, Packers
Greg Olsen, TE, 35, Seahawks
Adrian Peterson, RB, 35, Lions
Ted Ginn, WR, 35, Bears
Duane Brown, LT, 35, Seahawks
Matthew Slater, special teams, 35, Patriots
Demar Dotson, RT, 35, Broncos
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