Thriving in open field

High schools: After 28 days in jail in a murder case, Dunbar's Darryl Dorsey has emerged to lift his grades and burn his football pursuers, leading the Poets to the playoffs.

November 09, 1999|By Lem Satterfield and Peter Hermann | Lem Satterfield and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A year ago, Darryl Dorsey confronted an outlook so bleak he could only dream about playing high school football and one day making it to college.

Jailed on charges of first-degree murder, the 17-year-old was enduring a stay in the Baltimore City Detention Center that lasted nearly a month. His sports career had faltered, too, as a failing grade in one course had kept him off the team at Dunbar High.

Dorsey said he learned a lot about himself while in jail. "Being locked up, I realized the value of my education, because, when I was in there, I helped guys with reading, writing letters. They were real hungry for the little bit of knowledge I had," he said. "But every Friday I thought about how I could be helping the team. I never want to go back to the place where I was."

Today, the future looks far brighter for Dorsey, 18, a Dunbar slotback whose six touchdowns in the Poets' season opener were one shy of tying a state record.

The charges against him were dismissed without a trial, and Baltimore police concede they lack evidence against him. His lawyer contends Dorsey's arrest and detention was a tactic to flush out the killer, whom police believe he knows.

Dorsey has pulled up his grades to restore his athletic eligibility at Dunbar, where he plays both offense and defense for the Poets (8-2). His achievements on the field helped Dunbar grab a berth in the playoffs, where it faces two-time City West Division champ Edmondson (10-0) in a state quarterfinal game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Dorsey has caught 35 passes for 1,516 yards to lead the Poets to a share of the City East Division title with Patterson. He has 17 touchdowns, in a variety of ways. On special teams, he has returned three kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns. As a defensive back, he has scored three off his six interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Dunbar coach Ben Eaton said Dorsey, 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, has always "shown great athletic ability."

"It's one of God's gifts that he was blessed with," Eaton said. "The discipline, as far as being a student-athlete, you knew when he came here that he had the potential to make his mark here [at Dunbar] as well as later on in life."

A senior, Dorsey works about 25 hours a week in Morgan State's dining hall. His boss, Kevin Fauntleroy, said Dorsey has performed well on the job he has held for eight months. Scholastically, he has a 2.8 grade-point average and will take the SAT on Nov. 20.

A year after being jailed, Dorsey is at home in Northwood, where he sleeps in a bedroom whose decor reflects his status among college recruits.

The door to his room is covered with letters from Florida State, all of which begin, "Dear Darryl." In one, Seminoles assistant coach Tim Juhlin writes, "We will be following your progress."

On the walls are recruiters' letters from North Carolina, Northwestern, Temple and Maryland.

Another wall has framed photos of NBA players, including Dorsey's lookalike, Allen Iverson.

Dorsey has kept trophies from four straight championship Pop Warner teams from 1992 to 1995. He also kept awards for perfect attendance as a Chinquapin Middle School eighth-grader and a Dunbar freshman.

A notification of his listing in "Who's Who Among American High School Students," says the honor is "reserved for 5 percent of the nation's 10th-graders."

By contrast, Dorsey recalls the horror of being incarcerated for 28 days last fall in a cell that "was nothing like my bedroom."

"It was like two closets put together. There were two metal bunk beds connected to the wall. We had like, two little sheets. It was real cold," Dorsey said. "People made noise all night. You never really got any sleep.

"And the toilet," Dorsey continued, "was right there in front of you. When you had a cellmate, you had to use the bathroom right in front of each other."

Dorsey said he has tried to put the events of last fall behind him. "I play sports, work as a stock-loader, keep myself busy. I just try to keep my mind off of it," he said.

Trouble erupts

Dorsey was arrested at his home on Oct. 17, two days after Shey Mario Allen, 20, was gunned down behind a strip of rowhouses.

It remains unclear what happened when Allen was apparently chased by a group of young men after an argument. But a single witness picked Dorsey out of a photo lineup as the teen-ager seen arguing with the victim and leading the chase.

The witness did not see the shooting. Police said they believe Dorsey was involved, but lack evidence to prove it.

Detective Martin Young of the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit said the shooting stemmed from an argument between Dorsey and Allen over a girl.

Court documents filed by Young indicate that Dorsey confronted Allen at Argonne Drive and Tivoly Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 15, 1998. Police said that Allen hit Dorsey hard enough to cause him to fall to the ground, and that Dorsey and several of his friends chased Allen to the rear of the 1500 block of Argonne Drive.

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