A Quiet Leader


On the day Packers defensive tackle Santana Dotson was born, his father was on the Oakland Raiders practice field, rushing the quarterback.

"The Raiders' trainer, George Anderson, came over to me and said, 'You have a new son,'" Alphonse Dotson recalls. Alphonse, a one-time Packers draft pick who instead opted to sign with the rival American Football League, called his wife Caroline.

"She said, 'I named him already. My brother wants to name him Santana - for the musician.' I said, 'I'm more into the Indian Chief, who did a lot for his tribe, and worked for peace.'"

Chief Santana's philosophy was "with unity comes strength," and Alphonse and Caroline stressed the message with their young son.

"As a kid growing up, it meant a lot," Santana says.

"Santana was a good kid and a leader without trying to lead," Alphonse says. "I ended up with always a house full of neighborhood kids."

Santana remains a quiet leader today on the Packers. It's all part of the philosophy rooted in his name.

"I think it's not just being in a team sport, but with anything in life," Santana says. "Names with meanings are special, just something to give you that mental thought process, to keep your focus."

That focus has allowed Dotson to help the Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls, as well as to a No. 1 defensive ranking heading into a Monday night showdown with Minnesota.

"He's also tall, and that allows him to effectively apply pressure in the quarterback's face," Green Bay defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur says. "And he's the ultimate team player."

Sounds a lot like his father. Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who worked for the Raiders' front office while Alphonse played for Oakland in the late '60s, says he sees some of Alphonse in Santana.

"Santana's father had quickness, and that's where Santana gets it," Wolf says. "Santana is bigger. His dad was an excellent collegiate player, the first first-team All-American to come out of Grambling."

Santana grew up in Houston and attended Yates High School - the same as Alphonse, who remembers those days well.

"We raced the 40 one time," the elder Dotson says. "He won by a yard, but I pretended to limp and told him I kind of pulled a muscle."

Santana laughs at the story.

"When I was probably twelve or thirteen, he always made sure he'd beat me at everything, whether it be a pickup game of basketball, or running, or wrestling in the house. Because he knew he better beat me then, because when I got older, stronger and faster, I definitely was going to rub it in!"

"When Santana was in 10th grade," Alphonse says, "he really filled out. He was long and gangly - all head and feet. But then he went from a size nine shoe in August to a size 12 in November. I said, 'Uh-oh, there he goes.'"

Santana says his parents not only taught him how to be a good player, but also the importance of getting good grades and a quality education. That influence is still with him. He reads poetry and other philosophic literature, and isn't afraid to admit it in the locker room. It's not a sign of weakness, he tells teammate Keith McKenzie, it's a sign of strength.

"I always strive to be a well-rounded, versatile person," he says.

It takes a strong person inside to make your top priority unity with others, but that's what Santana Dotson does.

For example, his foundation sponsors scholarships for students with good grades, or students looking for a second chance. He expects recipients to commit to community service, something he's always done himself.

"I prefer to lead by example," Santana says. "And that togetherness really gives me a warm feeling."

Unity, on the gridiron and on the streets of Houston.

His namesake, and his father, would have it no other way.

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