Mickey Dollens walked onto the SMU campus in August 2006 certain of one thing: he had a scholarship to play college football he’d earned not only playing high school football, but promoting himself during the three-month, post-season scholarship scramble. Dollens’s high school wasn’t known for football excellence. The team recorded 3-7 and 1-9 seasons during his junior and senior years, and the head coach exited. Despite the team’s performance, Dollens was named a three-time All-Area selection, first-team All-District, and one of the Top 20 Players in northeastern Oklahoma. Yet, he knew it wasn’t enough. “High school athletes mistakenly believe that college coaches will find them if they are good enough,” he says, “but in states like Texas, Oklahoma, California and Florida, there are so many good football players, unless you’re someone who has stood out year after year, you have to take the initiative to market yourself.”
Without a coach to provide direction, Dollens got creative. Delving into NCAA regulations, he tackled the tasks needed to get him the attention of coaches already inundated with tapes and resumes from scholarship-hungry players. He was rewarded with offers, including one from Phil Bennett at SMU, and he acquired a mission, volunteering to help high school players market themselves to college football programs.
Dollens chose SMU, impressed with SMU’s campus, facilities, and the promise of the football program. And then he met John Lewis, professor in the English department. “Professor Lewis introduced me to close reading and helped me discover great things,” Dollens says. He found out he hadn’t been reading the things that interested him. “It’s now a passion,” he says.
Dollens reads, writes, and deconstructs poetry, and he draws this analogy between it and football: “At the college level, you have to be a student of the game. There’s a lot of studying involved: your opponent, their playbook – looking for tendencies, schemes, what’s going on. Close reading is like studying plays – noticing formations and tendencies in formations. It’s like deconstructing a poem.” SMU Head Football Coach June Jones says, “Mickey’s positive attitude and work ethic have been a great influence on the whole team. After seeing his determination on the football field, I have no doubt that Mickey will be successful off the field after he graduates from SMU.”
Dollens is a true Renaissance man – a poet who quotes Swift, a defensive lineman who wears a Bowl ring and an author with a nearly complete book that he plans to publish after graduation. He’s following his own advice, taking initiative, marketing himself. He’s even looking for a publisher for his collection of personal stories, observations, and action plans written “from the athlete, for the athlete” and now titled Recruit Yourself: College Football. Dollens quotes Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Dollens, no doubt, is one of the really great.
Mickey Dollens will graduate in May 2011 with a major in English and a creative writing specialization. He is aware of the similarity in name to actor and musician Mickey Dolenz and would love to meet him one day.