Mike Doss - Legendary Class

Michael Doss might best be remembered as one of the heroes to lead the Buckeyes to their National Championship title in 2002, but he’s been quite busy since then. It was that pivotal moment in his life that he’s most proud of, and it instilled in him a spark of confidence that his football career path was headed to the next level.

Canton-born Doss grew up in the shadow of idol athlete Michael Jordan, and sharing that passion for sports, he carried his enthusiasm onto the high-school football field, leading his McKinley Bulldogs team to two state titles. A key player for The Ohio State University, an interception Doss made in the National Championship game gave the Buckeyes the lead. Drafted by the NFL in 2003, he played for the Indianapolis Colts, then moved on to the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals – 
an impressive resume for a 29-year-old. Adding to that a Super Bowl win, a multitude of career highlights and awards, and a few bumps in his personal life along the way, this free agent is a seasoned professional.

These days, Doss spends much of his time serving The Michael A. Doss Foundation, created to assist in the advancement of education and give relief to underprivileged and underserved youth. Earning a college degree was critical to Doss, and he insists on promoting education every chance he gets. Get to know a little more about this superstar player in our exclusive Q&A and photo shoot.
Q & A » » » » » »

Who is your idol, your mentor, the person you admire most in this world?
Michael Jordan. Growing up in ’88, ’89, I was about seven years old and I grew with his legacy. Over those next ten and twelve years, Michael Jordan was the man in that era. So, that was my mantra. Even though I played football and a little baseball, I always watched Michael before my games just to get in that zone. He was that one athlete that could take over a whole 
game, and that’s how I felt 
as an athlete.

Who is your best friend?
John Lucious. We grew up together since we were six years old and he was my best man in my wedding. He’s been there from day one, and we were on every team together until I got to Ohio State. My best woman friend, though, would be my wife. We’ve known each other since we were 12 years old. I met her at Ohio State in sixth grade during a school function. And in sixth grade, you go talk to the girl for your friend. So, I went over there to talk to her for another guy and broke the ice. And we just hit it off. We’ve known each other since.

Of all the things you have done in your life, what are you the most proud?
The most proud thing for me was after I won the National Championship game. I drove to Cleveland, Ohio, and I just remember going to West 7th where my mom lived at the bottom of the hill in the projects, and just telling her, “Get your driver’s license.” My little brother was just a newborn at the time and I had a younger sister and I said, “Get all your identification and we’re leaving this and we’re moving to Columbus to start a new, fresh life.” That, to me, was the most important thing I’ve ever done. To be able to take care of my mother, who took care of me, was huge. That was my whole motivation.

Do you have any kids?
I don’t have any biological kids. But, I do have my 7-year-old brother who I’ve been raising since our mother passed away with breast cancer in December ’08. It’s a blessing, and everyone thinks he’s my son, but he always lets everyone know, “He’s not my dad! He’s my brother.” [laughs]

What is the main goal behind the "Michael Doss Foundation"?
The main goal is to alert the community and youth about education. You can’t do anything in life without an education. We want to impact the single-parent families and surrogate families, which I was raised in. We do a lot of different programs such as holidays and back-to-school events where we give out school supplies and promote education. The main focus is to just make an impact and let kids know that education is very important. That’s the reason I stayed in college my senior year, was to get my education. I wanted to promote that and let that be known. One of the most important things in my life was getting my degree.

Where are you working right now?
I’m working for Zimmer Ohio, a medical company.

At 29 years old, you've accomplished so much: Superbowl champ, 3-time All-American, college grad, foundation namesake ... What matters the most?
Being who I am in Ohio and winning the National Championship. Also, coming back my senior year and deciding to stay and saying, 
“The only reason I’m coming back is to get my degree and to win a National Championship.” That is a bold statement, and no one really thought at that moment it could really happen. So, me and my teammates going out there and sacrificing in the fall and having that opportunity to accomplish that goal, that’s a little bit of faith. It was an unbelievable ride, and the season was awesome.

What, in your opinion, is the key to success?
I think it’s motivation and not willing to settle. The most successful people are hard workers and they’re always looking for that breakthrough. A lot of people hit those walls and hurdles and feel like it’s over. But, the motivation to break through that wall or jump over that hurdle is the key to success. And not just in this instance, but in all aspects of life.

What do you think is the most essential part about being a superstar athlete?
There are a couple different things that come into the equation. Number one is talent. You have to be talented. You can get all the media hype and all of that, but if you’re not talented and can’t make plays, whether it’s swinging a golf club or shooting a jumper, if you can’t make the play, then it doesn’t matter. Number two is marketability. Is it L.A., New York City or Atlanta? And can that city grow so you can expand the business aspect of it. Because you’re an asset and the owner of a team wants to know how marketable you are. And the last thing is approachability. Are you personable with the fans? Can the fans see you and say, “I want to be like him”?

So, where do you place Lebron and Tiger?
Obviously, Tiger Woods is the number one athlete in the world, just because the sport he does is so universal – meaning, anyone can play it. However, not everyone can go out on an NBA court and play basketball, dunk a basketball or even shoot a basketball. But any person can go grab a golf club and swing a stick. The thing with LeBron is, is that he was so young when he got into the game and he was so talented where the media, when he was coming up through high school, recognized him from day one. When he was a freshman, he was already getting local and national press. He was on shoe magazines and things like that as a freshman in high school where he was the “chosen” one. So, he is an athlete that has grown with the media.

At the age of 50, who's more recognizable?
I think they’re both going to be recognizable. They’re not going anywhere. Like I was talking about marketability, they’re both universal. And when you have 
a universal athlete, the sky is 
the limit. You can make any 
product good.

What if Lebron did what Tiger did? What do you think the reaction would be?
I think that everyone makes mistakes. And not everyone’s mistakes are exposed. So, when you have these top-notch caliber athletes, we put them in a bracket that’s separate from everyone else, when actually they’re just human beings. They have the right to human error. If LeBron did what Tiger did, though, I mean, he’s a man who was susceptible to making a mistake. Stuff happens like this everyday in corporate America, period. And not everyone is getting exposed.

Do you think that they would be able to "stand up" after it?
I think they would. This big apology like, “I’m sorry” to the public when all you have to do is be sorry to yourself. You are the individual who made the decision. No kid pushed you out there. No fan said, “Hey that’s a great thing to do, do it.” You make your own decisions and you have to live 
with your own choices.

You were out with a torn ACL during the Superbowl XLI against the Bears. Describe that feeling.
Being an athlete and a guy who’s always been in championships with that desire and feeling of, “I’m going to make a difference,” I had to stand on the sideline always felt as an athlete, a want to be in the game or to be the guy to make that big play. So, to get there and not be able to participate, that was an empty feeling for me. It was a humbling experience. I cherished being at the Super Bowl and I cherished being a part of that team. But not being able to play and be a part of the number-one game in the sport that I’ve loved since I was 8 years old, I can’t compare that to anything.

How do you unwind?
I love movies. My favorite is The Shawshank Redemption.

What did you major in at Ohio State University?

What was the first poster on your wall?
Michael Jordan dunking from the free-throw line.

Is there any specific incident in your life that has defined you as a person?
I actually have two. Number one being, I was young and at the wrong place at the wrong time and I made a mistake. I was at Akron and got myself into a little legal trouble. It really wasn’t per-say, a “big deal” at the end of the day, but with athletes, everything always gets blown out of proportion and no one really knows the true story. I was like, “I’m a great guy.” I remember just going through that experience and realizing every decision you make has an impact. I got charged with carrying a concealed weapon. I didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on the situation, but I was just there. I learned from it, and made better decisions. Number two is the day my mother passed away. I lost my mother in December ’08 and it was the same day that I got back into the NFL. So, a year later I’m going through all of these trials. I’m figuring out who I am. I know I still want to be an athlete and I’m chasing my dream. I actually get the chance to be a football player again and the day I went out there to play my first game, my wife shows up and told me to sit down. I’m like, “What’s going on?” I knew that my mom had been admitted to the hospital and they were going to run some tests to figure out what was going on. But, the last time I got to see my mom was on a Friday. She was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. My whole world just came crashing down, losing my mother in the same day.

Some people say that football is a rough, violent sport. What is your reaction to this?
They’re absolutely right. It’s organized car crashes out there.

You are walking down deathrow. What did you just eat?
I would have a nice steak, probably a 12-ounce filet and some sweet potatoes. And maybe some macaroni and cheese and cornbread with water. I’m a water person. For dessert, though, I would have 
a big piece of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.

Your drink of choice on a Saturday night is ... ?
Vodka and Sprite. I’m a simple dude.

Silliest thing you've done in the past month?
What people don’t know about me is that I’m a clown. I’ve done everything from imitating Paton Manning in the locker room to being in a talent show where I danced like Michael Jackson and put on cowboy boots. The silliest thing I’ve done within the last month was on a Buckeye cruise, where we stopped at Key West at this hat store. The hat store was very unique because they had hats with wigs and stuff. Well, I bought a hat that had a blonde ponytail [laughs]. So, I’m on this boat, rocking this hat with a blonde ponytail. It was a great time. I’m always joking.

Best advice: Who said what?
Tony Dungy. His best piece 
of advice was, “No excuses, 
no explanations.”

Do you ever wear your Superbowl ring?
I do. I wear it for power meetings or if I’m going someplace where people will want to see it, like autographs sessions and things like that. But, naturally, I’m not an everyday ring-wearer. Me wearing my wedding ring is enough. But I do bring it out 
once in a while.

What family tradition do you want to pass down to your kids?
For me, it was game day. Every Saturday game day, I ate a certain breakfast and certain foods. Just that tradition, for whatever sport or career they’re in, that we all get together and do the same thing. 
A family is like a team.