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Dolphis a great player, an even better person

Jeff Papas

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football coach Keith Turner knew he had a special player in middle linebacker DeAngelo Dolphis.

He just couldn’t play him.

Dolphis, a Brooklyn Center native, arrived from Briar Cliff in Iowa this fall ready to play, but with a transcript that was still unresolved in terms of credits.

Dolphis wanted to play. Turner couldn’t let him.

“His transcript was still being ironed out from a summer school class,” Turner said. “He wanted to play and I had to tell him that I couldn’t risk everyone else (forfeiting for using an ineligible player) until it was ready.”

Three weeks into the season, the issue was resolved and Dolphis stepped into the middle of the Thunder’s defense. He attacked opponents with a vengeance.

It worked out well. This week Dolphis was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s All-America second team — the first defensive player from the school ever to be so honored.

His stats were sparkling — 75 tackles, which was 24 more than anyone else on the team — nine tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions including one pick-six, and three fumble recoveries. Dolphis was also named the region’s top defensive player.

And he missed three games.

“I’m trying to get that across to people here,” Turner said. “If he had played all the games, his stats would have given him first-team (status).”

In his only season with the program, Dolphis turned heads and opened eyes.

“This is something he can take away from life that’s a good experience,” Turner said. “He’s probably going to have some experiences in life that aren’t so good. But the best thing is that he made it through those three weeks where he couldn’t play and things didn’t go his way. He grew from that adversity where a lot of players wouldn’t, and just say everyone is against them.”

Dolphis gave the Thunder a great deal of flexibility on the field.

“He was a coach on the field,” Turner said. “He sees the game through a coach’s eyes. He is able to time his blitz, understand formations, and he watched a lot of video. He would tell us what he saw and how we could react in packages and situations, and he’d be right.”

Turner says Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee have expressed interest in Dolphis, and Turner has sent Dolphis’ information and video to UMD in hopes of a look from the Bulldogs.

“I’d love it if he could stay local because his parents would love to see him play and, frankly, so would I,” Turner said. “The Bulldogs graduated a very good middle linebacker (Division II All-American Colby Ring) and I’d hope DeAngelo could play there. He works his butt off in practice and you don’t have to tell him to practice hard or fast. He just does it.”

Turner says Dolphis, 6’1” and 230 pounds, can make an impact at the next level.

“He has great instincts,” Turner said. “If he hits you and gets his hands on you, he will take you to the ground. I don’t think he missed a tackle all season.”

“He could cover a tight end or a running back one-on-one, which meant we could play man coverage,” Turner said. “We could stunt our defensive linemen because we knew he’d be in the right spot to cover for them.”

Dolphis is also an example of a hard-working student who has earned his shot.

“He’s a good student,” Turner said of Dolphis, who will get his associates’ degree this spring. “He’s probably a better person than he is a football player. I’d take 22 of him any day.”

“He’s a solid kid,” Turner added. “Whoever gets him is going to get a kid who will change their locker room for the better.”