By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Tony Dorsett has been to the Apple Blossom Festival before. The former Dallas Cowboys star running back was a sports guest in 1985, while he was still playing. He's back again this year, but this time it's much more special for him.
Dorsett's daughter, Jazmyn, is this year's Festival queen.
"I keep watching my wife. We're pretty emotional when it comes to our children," Dorsett said at Friday's celebrity press conference. "We've always looked at our daughters as princesses and now we got one that's a queen. The thing about it is the nice memories that's going to be stuck with her for the rest of her life."
Dorsett has three daughters and said he never tried to push his children into sports. Jazmyn Dorsett played basketball for Oklahoma State University for the last three years, but is considering giving up the sport for fashion school next year.
"Jazmyn can do athletically just about anything that she wants to," Dorsett said. "Everything she's played, she's been good at."
The only thing Dorsett said he has insisted his children must do is stick things out even when things aren't going their way.
"I don't try to force feed them anything, but if they get into it, I tell them, 'If you're going to go out for it, you're going to finish it whether you like it or not,'" Dorsett said. "'We don't quit in this house. You should make sure it's something that you really want to do, because if you get it wrong you're going to finish it. You're going to see it all the way through, that's for sure.'"
Dorsett said he's semi-retired these days, and mostly tries to spend time with his family.
He is also trying to get through some health problems, which are side effects from his 12 years in the NFL. He said he has to take medication, which he hates to do. Dorsett said he has trouble with his memory due to his years as a running back in the NFL and all the hits he has taken.
The Hall of Famer is one of at least 300 players suing the NFL, claiming the NFL pressured them to play with concussions and other injuries and then failed to help them pay for health care in retirement to deal with those injuries.
"If someone would've told me, 'Tony, because of that concussion that you just had, if we put you in the game there's a chance that 10-15 years down the road you're going to have repercussions,'" Dorsett said. "'Something's going to be happening to your brain, you're going to have issues with this. But, we would like you to go back in the game. Will you go back in the game?' Hell no, I wouldn't go back in the game. But [the owners] supposedly knew this and they were doing this to us knowingly.
"And that's not the American way. It's just cruel."
Dorsett said that players in his day had no idea there could be side effects from all the big hits they took week-to-week.
"In our environment, it's all about being tough," Dorsett said. "Sometimes you let the toughness take over for being smart. I've seen stars a zillion times. That's a form of a concussion. I've been knocked out completely cold three, four times. I didn't know that later on in life I was going to have to deal with this. It's awful."
He said he went to his alma mater -- the University of Pittsburgh -- to have tests done, and it was found that there are areas of his brain where he isn't getting enough oxygen, which is causing his problems.
Dorsett said he continues to look into ways to help his condition, because his family is so important to him.
"I'm trying to do what I can do because I have three daughters," Dorsett said. "And I want to be functional when my daughters get married. I want to be functional when I have grandchildren."
Dorsett said he's still a fan of the game, but doesn't watch as much as he used to. Dorsett ran for 12,739 yards in his career, and 92 total touchdowns.
He said the position of running back has changed a lot since he left the game.
"The main thing as a running back is to run the ball," Dorsett said. "You're not a primary receiver, you're a secondary receiver. That's why you got wide receivers and tight ends. I just think they put too much emphasis on, 'He's a better route runner than this guy.' Teach him to be a better route runner, he's a professional player, he can easily learn that."
For years Dorsett was a thorn in the side of the Washington Redskins and their fans. Dorsett said now that he's not playing, he's noticed a difference in the response he received from Redskins fans at this year's Festival, compared to when he was at the Festival in 1985.
"The Redskins fans that I have seen have been very appreciative of what we brought during that era," Dorsett said. "The competitiveness that we had. They appreciate the talent that I had. They say now that you're not playing, now I can say that I appreciated your play and what you brought to the game."