Photo by Associated Press.
Originally Published: July 25, 2016 11:08 p.m.
Darnell Dockett, the big, boisterous defensive lineman who overcame a rough childhood to thrive in the NFL, said goodbye to the league the way he wanted — as an Arizona Cardinal.
The 35-year-old player signed a one-day contract with the team on Monday and announced his retirement at a news conference.
Dockett, never at a loss for words, said he's "very thankful" and "beat the odds" to make it in the NFL.
He played 10 seasons with Arizona after the Cardinals selected him in the third round of the draft out of Florida State.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he finished his career with 40½ sacks and 538 tackles in 158 games.
Dockett missed only two games in those 10 NFL seasons, a remarkable example of endurance considering the position he played. But he tore an ACL in training camp and missed the 2014 season.
The Cardinals released Dockett in February 2015.
He signed a two-year $7.5 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, with $2 million guaranteed, but was released before the 2015 season started.
"I'm never going to talk about the other team that I went to," Dockett said, "because my heart never was there. ... and everybody knew that. This is where I belong."
Living in Decatur, Georgia, Dockett was 13 when he came home and found his mother had been murdered, victim of a gunshot to the head. Four months later, his father died of cancer.
An uncle, Kevin Dockett, took custody of the boy and used stern discipline to transform the rebellious youngster into a powerful football player recruited to Florida State. Dockett credits his uncle for saving him.
"I'm very thankful," he said. "I beat the odds in a lot of ways. That's one way I'm able to put my cleats up and take my jersey off, knowing that where I came from, all the things, all the adversity and stuff I fought to get this far in life, I have beat the odds."
Dockett was known to make up a few stories just to mess with reporters and others. And his comments on social media sometimes got him in trouble.
"Mark Dalton (vice president, media relations), me and you had a lot of conversation about Twitter," Dockett said. "Don't worry, I can do what I want now."
The 6-foot-4, 239-pound lineman had a violent edge to his game.
"There will never be another Darnell Dockett," he said. "I played for different reasons. I played, honestly, to hurt people. That was my motto of playing because I loved football. I loved the physical part of it."
Dockett mentioned the late Dennis Green, who was Arizona's coach when he was drafted. Green died on Friday at age 67.
He thanked Cardinals president Michael Bidwill for allowing him to retire as a Cardinal. Dockett occasionally cast a playful stare at coach Bruce Arians, who was Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator when the Steelers beat Arizona with a last-minute touchdown in the 2009 Super Bowl.
"I would like to thank Bruce Arians," Dockett said, "even though he was the reason I don't have my Super Bowl ring."
Dockett played one season for Arians, who said the big lineman brought "passion every single day, not just game day. It was every practice, every meeting."
Several ex-teammates were on hand, including Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle and Antonio Smith.
Wilson took the microphone for a tribute to his old teammate.
"There's heroes, there's villains, and then there's Dockett." Wilson said. "You were a great mix of the two."