“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison
For every college football player who spends his career bellyaching about playing time or feels his coaching staff is not doing enough to help him move on to the next level is a guy who remains humble, keeps his head down and fights to earn his keep.
You usually see this type of gusto from walk-ons who are thrilled to have a place on the team and hope to earn a scholarship by proving they can work as hard and perform as well as the highly recruited players who intend to use their college careers as a springboard to the NFL.
But what happens when a four-star recruit listed as one of the top players at his position nationally works just as hard as any other player, earns the starting role he sought his whole career and is injured – not once but thrice – and told to kiss his career goodbye?
Those unfortunate circumstances are what former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe faced. Rather than fall by the wayside as another talented athlete who could not escape injury and wound up giving up on his dream, he has kept his head in the game, searched for the right opportunity and realized that any chance you are given to succeed is better than no chance at all.
Entering his redshirt junior year with Florida in 2008, Munroe was set to start and play extensively in the secondary. While doing voluntary workouts in Gainesville, FL on July 7, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was forced to miss the entire season.
He rejoined the Gators in 2009 with his knee healed and his mind set on returning to form. After going through an extensive rehabilitation process, Munroe shined in the Orange & Blue Debut, grabbing an interception and proving that he was ready to play once again as part of a four-man rotation at safety.
His comeback would not be without another bump in the road, however, as he tore the meniscus in his right leg in August and missed the first seven games of the season. Munroe made his triumphant return to the field against Georgia on Oct. 31, starting on special teams and taking home the Special Teams Player of the Game award.
Little did he know that the first game he participated in after nearly 16 months on the mend would also be the last time he ever put the full Florida uniform.
Read the rest of OGGOA’s feature on Dorian Munroe…after the break!
The Gators celebrated their 41-17 victory on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Munroe entered practice on Tuesday ready to build on his great performance and contribute as much as he could at home against Vanderbilt. However, just a few plays into practice, he re-tore the ACL in his right knee and had his dream derailed once again.
Depressed and dejected, Munroe regrouped in the spring and began the rehab process all over again. He sent an application to the NCAA for a rare sixth year of eligibility and immediately started graduate school to remain eligible academically. Simultaneously, he trained extensively with the hope that he would be healthy enough to take one more crack at playing college football. From January to March, all he did was study and rehab, rehab and study until the NCAA contacted him and denied his application – twice.
“Because I only played in one game that season, I applied to the NCAA to get another year, but unfortunately I was denied because NCAA rules say you can’t play past a certain point in the season,” Munroe explained. “Even though I only played one game that season in 2009, it counted as an entire season.
“At the end of the day, bottom line was the NCAA denied me. I appealed and the NCAA denied me again.”
Never one to sulk at the lot he was handed, Munroe had thoughts about hanging things up for good but instead decided to make the most of his summer and pursue an opportunity in the NFL…front office.
“I briefly kind of flirted with the idea of giving up when the NCAA denied my request to return,” he said. “Prior to them telling me no, I was back working out and training with the team. Everyone grows up dreaming of being a starter at the University of Florida, and my dream was kind of pulled away from me months prior to me fulfilling [it].
“Coming off of the injuries, I wasn’t sure if any scouts would even give me an opportunity, so I started looking at other career paths. It just so happens I was blessed to be able to come up and have that experience at the NFL league office. I formed some great relationships up there with the player development director Troy Vincent and commissioner Roger Goodell. Looking back, I firmly believe everything happens for a reason.”
Munroe’s work with the NFL in New York, which counted as internship credit for his graduate degree, was a nice reprise for him before he returned to Florida to take the remainder of his classes. While in Gainesville, he stuck around the Gators football team and assisted director of player and community relations Terry Jackson with his day-to-day duties during the 2010 season.
Graduating with his masters that semester, Munroe knew he had a decision to make.
“I was all over the place, man. I was really trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do. I was 22 at the time in my last semester of grad school, and I really missed football,” he said. “I kind of still felt like I could play, but I knew my situation and the circumstances and it was around during that time I heard about another opportunity.”
That opportunity is another one Munroe recently decided to grab a hold of as he will continue his career as a college football player in Canada.
“I had a couple buddies who I know who told me about college football in Canada, and they told me I’d be eligible,” Munroe recalls. “I was like, ‘No way, there’s no way I would be eligible.’ They were like, ‘Yeah, because of the injuries that you had at Florida, due to eligibility rules you still have some time to play.’
“The rules up here are that you have seven years removed from high school to play or if you didn’t exhaust all of your eligibility in the Untied States, you can play in Canada.”
Munroe found out he was indeed eligible – for one year. And after speaking with family, friends, teammates, coaches and advisors, he decided to take the “one-year shot” and “see what happens.”
He moved to Canada in April and enrolled at the University of Toronto in June so he could begin classes in the fall. On Aug. 22, Munroe strapped on the pads for fall camp with the Toronto Blues and took his first steps toward returning to game action.
The Blues play their first game of the season on Sept. 5 against the University of Windsor.
“I have buddies who play Arena Football and guys who play semi-pro, but at the end of the day I felt this was a better opportunity,” he said. “Not only do I get to go play football in another country, I also get to study in another country and not a lot of people get that opportunity. It’s something I can take advantage of.
“I’ve had a couple of practices so far and have really excelled. I feel like I’m back to where I was prior to my first injury. I feel really good.”
Donning a new jersey, Munroe has been rotating between both safety positions while working with the team’s first unit. As far as the condition of his knee goes, he is having no problems whatsoever and believes it is as healthy as ever.
“The knee is feeling great. I’m running, lifting, doing everything 100 percent, full-go no restrictions,” he said. “I’m really emphasizing and focusing on rehabbing all of the muscles in my lower body. I’m real happy with where I am, and I’m ready to go.”
Munroe knows he is going to need that knee to hold up not only to succeed on the field but also so he can get around the 180-acre campus and expansive city of Toronto.
“I love it [here]. Toronto is a beautiful city, a beautiful, diverse city,” he said. “It’s a big campus with a large enrollment. I’ve had an amazing time so far.”
Interested in sports psychology, Munroe will be taking some courses in that area in order to increase his knowledge on the subject. Whether winds up playing professionally, coaching, scouting or holding a position in player development, he is confident that he is making the right decision for his future.
“Everything happens for a reason. I’m thankful that God has blessed me the opportunity to play the game I love – football – again,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s a great experience and I’m having a great time. I’m meeting some great people, forming some great relationships. When looking back at my life, I’ll be able to say that I played college football in the United States and in Canada. Not many people can say that.”
And that’s why it does not matter where Munroe plays or what role he fills going forward. One way or another he will remain connected to the game in which he tried to succeed as a player by continuing to seek out potential opportunities, grabbing a hold of them before they slip away and working as hard as he possibly can to prevail.
Munroe does not need Edison’s advice in this regard.