Tim Dwight was fast. Lightning fast. In fact, the dude’s nickname in the NFL was “White Lightning.” Tim Dwight has always been an enigma, and for a small guy in the NFL (only 5’8″ and 180 lbs.), Tim Dwight was one of the Biggest Dogs ever. As a professional football player, Tim Dwight couldn’t size up to other players, but he had two things that can make anyone succeed in this world: speed and heart. And when I say “heart” I am not suggesting an image of Tim as this “Rudy Ruettiger” type figure. I mean “heart” in the sense that this guy was absolutely and uncompromisingly fearless. I have a distinct memory of him running back across the field after handing the ball off to Tony Martin on a double end-around and trying to block Warren Sapp. The play resulted with Dwight on the sidelines for the remainder of the season, but even a bone-crushing hit from a titan like Sapp couldn’t stop Tim Dwight for good.
Tim Dwight was the top recruit out of his High School in Iowa City, Iowa. He got several scholarships from multiple Big 10 schools but elected to attend the U of I. As a Hawkeye, he set school records for career receiving yards and touchdowns. He even finished 7th in the Heisman voting his senior year.
Many people were skeptical of Dwight succeeding in the NFL because of his size, but his supernatural speed attracted the curiosity of the Atlanta Falcons who drafted Tim Dwight in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL draft. In the first game of his NFL career and on his first career reception, he scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass from the transcendent Chris Chandler. In his first season, Dwight accompanied the Falcons to a Superbowl berth against the Denver Broncos. It was in Superbowl XXXIII that Tim Dwight really made a big-time name for himself. After trailing the Broncos 31-6 in the fourth quarter, the “kamikaze kid” delivered one of the most inspiring plays in Superbowl history, taking a kickoff 94-yards to the house. His 210 kick return yards for that game rank second all-time in Superbowl history.
Dwight followed his respectable rookie campaign with an historically underrated and overlooked sophomore season. Despite catching only 32 balls for 669 yards (seven of which were touchdowns), he led the league in yards per reception (20.9) These statistics are actually somewhat staggering if you put them into perspective. With 32 grabs going for 7 scores, Dwight scored a touchdown nearly 22% of time he caught a pass. Tack on another punt returned for a touchdown out of 20 attempts and one rushing touchdown on 5 carries, Tim Dwight was arguably the most valuable player in the league based on the number of times he actually got the ball. BIG. To recap, Tim Dwight had the football in his hands a grand total of 57 times and scored a touchdown on 9 of those plays, that’s roughly a touchdown every 6 touches. HUGE.
In 2001, Tim Dwight was traded to the San Diego Chargers in a deal that enabled Atlanta to select Michael Vick with the Chargers’ number one overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. With the Chargers, Tim had a limited role in the return game but upped his impact as a wide-out. In 2002, Dwight caught a career high 50 passes for 620 yards but only 2 scores. As a receiver, he was never afraid to go over the middle, but unfortunately, this “fearlessness” that proved to be so crucial to his early success in the NFL became his Achilles heel. Injuries from on-the-field heroics kept Tim sidelined for most of his career in San Diego and his numbers decreased considerably. No longer able to maintain a 4/40 speed, the Chargers released Dwight in 2004.
Luckily, though, the Patriots signed Dwight to a one-year contract in 2005. In his only season with New England, he caught only 19 passes for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns (ouch). From 2006-2007 he bounced around the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders organizations before becoming an unsigned free-agent in 2008. To this day Tim Dwight remains a free-agent and it baffles me as to why any team would hesitate to sign him.
Everyone remembers Tim Dwight as being this preternaturally fast white dude who had a few decent years in the NFL. I personally love the guy because he was fun to watch and played the game with reckless abandon. He was a natural play-maker, a guy who could really make things happen when he got the ball in his hands. At the age of 35 I’m not sure Tim Dwight still has “White Lightning” speed, but I am confident that, if given the chance, he’d prove to everyone that he’s still a big dog with a lot of bite left in him.