TDA: Which schools recruited you to play football?
PD: I was fortunate to receive offers from a number of colleges to play ball. The ones that I seriously considered besides Alabama were Florida State, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oregon, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Southern Miss.
TDA: Aside from its winning tradition, what made Alabama stand out the most?
PD: Alabama stood out for a couple reasons.
Although no one in my family had ever attended Alabama, I grew up an Alabama fan and always dreamed of playing football there. I truly thought that the young guys on the team and the guys seriously considering Alabama (Andre Smith, David Ross, Greg McElroy, and myself) could have a great opportunity to play good football together.
TDA: Was tight end your favorite position, or did the role grow on you?
PD: I always enjoyed being a physical player, but tight end grew on me towards the end of my HS career and the beginning of my college career. Learning how to get open, understanding defenses, and the little tricks of the trade made the position a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed clearing the way for our stud RB’s and being a target on third downs.
TDA: You were recruited by Mike Shula, but played under Nick Saban from 2007-10. What was it like being around both coaches?
PD: I appreciated both coaches and feel fortunate to play for both guys. Shula has the NFL mentality of “every man needs to do whatever it is they need to do to prepare to play their best”. He was more of what people consider a players’ coach.
Coach Saban started a little more distant and assessed the issues of the team at the start. He kind of came in with the “let’s see who really wants to do what it takes to be successful” mentality. A lot of guys weren’t ready for the change and they left.
Coach Saban made everything seem really simple once you understood his program. He and his staff did all of the thinking and teaching, all we had to do was give 110%.
As we grew, he then expected his leaders to enforce the same principles on the young guys so they progressed faster.
TDA: Alabama was able to put everything together in 2009. What were some of your favorite moments from that season?
PD: Obviously the national championship game was the pinnacle, but I have several other memories that I think we’re key to our end result.
South Carolina=Our offense had trouble airing the ball out. In the 4th quarter, we went wildcat formation and just ran the ball over and over and they couldn’t stop us. Our ability to find a way to beat a good team made me think we had something that teams would worry about.
Tennessee=We did not play well at all, but we found a way. The blocked field goals made us feel it was meant to be and luck was on our side!
Auburn=Always fun to come back and beat your rival! They pulled out every trick play they could think of to score on our outstanding defense. We never panicked. We just kept chipping away.
Florida=Best week of practice I’ve ever seen, and likely the best all-around game we played in my career. Our mistakes were minimal, and we beat up on a really good football team to get revenge on them getting the best of us the year before. I knew we would win the championship game after that.
TDA: John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy are two different characters. What type of leadership did both guys have in the huddle at QB?
PD: It was fun playing with both guys. McElroy was more of the student of the game and coach on the field that limited his mistakes and rarely negatively affected our team.
He studied teams until he knew all of their tendencies. JP was more of the gun slinging warrior that was tough as nails. Kind of a Brett Favre type that you knew was going to make a play to keep you in it.
TDA: Glenn Coffee, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson all benefited from you as a blocking tight end. Which one was the most balanced running back?
PD: They were all fantastic backs, but I think the only thing that separated Mark Ingram from the others the slightest bit was his ability to get through the smallest holes and attack the secondary. I loved blocking for all three of them as well as helping Eddie Lacy develop.
TDA: What is the hardest part about transitioning from college to professional football?
PD: It’s a real business. You aren’t quite as close with your pro teammates. Granted you will still be close with guys within your position group, but a lot of guys have families they go home to as soon as meetings, film, and practice are over.
TDA: How has life after football been for you? What are you up to nowadays?
PD: Life’s been great. I really missed football and the team camaraderie the first two years, but I think that’s just part of it after you give it all you have for 18 years.
I’m living in Nashville, Tenn., and working for a commercial real estate development company based there. Between work, duck and turkey hunting, and my newest hobby golf, I’ve got plenty of thing to keep my competitive juices flowing.
I’m getting married next Saturday to Olivia Tomlin, the girl I’ve been dating since we met celebrating the ’09 championship so life is all aces my man.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.