June 29, 2012

He's roamed through life, and through the backfields

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

PORTLAND — James Dobson had one more pass route to run. That all but a couple of his Maine Sabers teammates had walked off the turf heading to the post-practice buffet made no difference.

When you're 26 and hungry, and still a dreamer without a lot of responsibilities, it never does matter.

He played one season of varsity football at Noble High and four more as a starting wide receiver at Husson University. Now he's a vagabond, carrying his football pads and shoes to any tryout he can find.

He tried to win a spot on the Calgary Stampede of the Canadian Football League. He did make the Huntington Hammer, a West Virginia franchise of the Ultimate Indoor Football League, in 2011. What, haven't heard of the Hammer? It and he didn't last, although the league still exists.

Wednesday night he was at the Portland Sports Complex, practicing with the Sabers. The Maine semipro team opens the Eastern Football League season in Massachusetts on Saturday against the Worcester Fury, playing at Worcester State College.

"It's all about opportunity," said Dobson. "So many people can't or don't use the opportunities they get. I have to."

For a few dollars he listed his profile on Europlayers, an Internet site that serves as a clearing house for football players looking for jobs. A jock version of cupid.com. Dobson got a few matches. He chose the Silesia Rebels, a Division I team in the Polish League of American Football.

He was the lone American, running pass routes, returning kicks and serving as an assistant coach. That the quarterback, a Pole, was also the head coach became a small problem. "He didn't take criticism easily," said Dobson.

Three years ago the team then known as the Silesia Miners won the national title. Since then the team has lost more games than it won.

"Some of the players could play Division I or Division II football back here," said Dobson. "We had a young team. Some of them learn their football watching YouTube.

Silesia, a mining region in southwest Poland finished with a 3-7 record, but made the playoffs. Dobson began practicing with the Sabers three weeks ago. He will miss VII SuperFinal, the championship game to be played in the national stadium in Warsaw.

Yes, the Polish Bowl, as the SuperFinal is also called, might draw a little more than a tenth of the soccer crowd. For Dobson, the experience was opportunity fulfilled. He might go back. He learned how to say please and thank you in Polish. He might play somewhere else.

This is his second season with the Sabers, which lost just once in league play a year ago. "I get everything I want but a paycheck." Team chemistry, good coaching -- Chris Kempton and Skip Capone from Bates College head up the staff -- and a 50ish team owner in Steve Goodrich who forgets to recruit a place-kicker so he can wear the uniform and play.

Dobson is a Maine kid with a world view and uncommon persistence. Remember the Victor Cruz story this winter? Cruz left Paterson, N.J., for a prep year at Bridgton Academy before going to the University of Massachusetts. He was asked to leave after the school saw his lousy grade-point average.

Instead of running out on himself, Cruz returned to New Jersey, got a job, took classes locally and readmitted to UMass. Last winter he was a star for the New York Giants.

Dobson took five years to get through Husson. After his first two years he partied more than he studied and was asked to leave. He got a job at a franchise restaurant across from the Maine Mall and took classes at a satellite Husson campus nearby.

He went back to Husson. He couldn't rejoin the football program immediately, which was a surprise to him. He stayed, played two more seasons and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration. Dobson is Victor Cruz Ultralight.

When he runs out of opportunities to play football anywhere, anytime, he'll ramp up a sports promotions company he just started. In the meantime he'll run another pass route or two in practice.

"I like to play because I can."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway/PPH

 

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