The Life &
There were 156 names on the piece of paper - one given to each person in the two adjacent rooms on the second floor of Blum Union on the campus of Missouri Western State University at training camp.
The names were of the 90 players currently on the Kansas City Chiefs roster, a few former legends, such as Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier, among others, and also included everyone on the football operations staff - from the assistant coaches, to the trainers and security personnel.
It was a quiz, and general manager John Dorsey gave it to members of the communications, video, digital, photography and public relations departments.
For anyone who has ever spent much time around Dorsey, who is entering his fourth year as general manager of the Chiefs, there's a good chance he's asked you a question about NFL history, quizzed you on different college coaches or some random facet of the game that's been the center of his life's work.
But on this particular summer afternoon, everyone was told to fill out this piece of paper and write down the colleges attended of the people listed on the paper. They were given 15 minutes.
It was his way of having fun with everyone.
Dorsey, whose body language and mannerisms as he walked around showed that he couldn't wait to collect and grade them a bit later, always finds a way to interact with everyone in the organization in the best way he knows how - with a combination for his love for the game and a little bit of humor on the side.
Dorsey looks on as the Chiefs practice during Training Camp
This is a man who led an NFL personnel staff in its first year to overhaul a roster that ultimately pulled off the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history, a nine-win improvement from a 2-14 record in 2012, to 11-5 in 2013.
Last year, the team won a franchise-record 11 straight games, including the first Chiefs playoff win in more than two decades.
On the field, Dorsey's successes are well documented, and off the field, he's passing as well.
This written test, which he did grade and score and later shared with everyone, is just one example of how Dorsey's interactions stretch far beyond the high-level decision-making that comes with running one of the NFL's most historic franchises. It's more than that because it's important to him that he helps develop a culture of inclusion among everyone in the organization.
Dorsey can often be found wandering around the offices in Kansas City and chatting with different members of different departments. He'll leave voicemails for staff members on their birthdays and takes his positive outlook everywhere he goes.
He's accessible, and that ability to relate with everyone from a customer service representative on the third floor of the Chiefs offices to some of the most powerful people in football is why he's found success.
"You want to talk about a relationship facilitating a contract," Tom Condon, who heads up the football division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and is widely known as one of the most powerful agents in the NFL, explained of his history with Dorsey. "We went out to dinner and finished Alex Smith's deal. It was just the two of us, and that was because I trusted him and knew we could do something without going through the typical machinations that go on with most of these contract negotiations."
In what ultimately became one of the biggest moves of Dorsey's Chiefs tenure thus far, he sat with Condon at Aixois restaurant in the Brookside area of Kansas City and was able to hammer out the necessary details of a contract over dinner.
Some things didn't have to be discussed because Condon trusted Dorsey, which is a theme among the most powerful agents in football.
Since that move, Smith has gone on to win more games under center for the Chiefs in his first three years than any other quarterback in franchise history.
Dorsey's laidback approach and way of doing business serves him well in this arena, and it also fits in well with the players, particularly Smith.
"[Dorsey] has joked with me from day one, throws (verbal) jabs and pushes, talks crap," Smith laughed. "He's funny and has a great sense of humor with it. He comes into our meetings and he's on the practice field. He's approachable."
Dorsey joked that his first conversation with Smith after the trade may have started over something like asking Smith, "Are you scared?"
It's something Smith couldn't remember or confirm but said it probably wasn't far off. That's just his personality.
[Dorsey] has joked with me from day one, throws (verbal) jabs and pushes, talks crap. He's funny and has a great sense of humor with it. He comes into our meetings and he's on the practice field. He's approachable."
- Alex Smith on Dorsey
Another example of Dorsey's reputation around the league helping facilitate a move was with right tackle Mitch Schwartz, who was surprisingly let go by the Cleveland Browns this offseason after they pulled a contract offer and made him available.
Schwartz's agent, Deryk Gilmore of Priority Sports, echoed the same sentiment as all the others in that Dorsey is easy to work with because "there's no dancing" with him.
Dorsey's professional relationships led to a personal one during his time working with the Green Bay Packers, and it's what initially connected him to Kansas City and later helped make the decision to take the Chiefs job a little easier.
One of Dorsey's friends within the scouting community, Lamonte Winston, a longtime personnel staff member with the Chiefs, wanted to help his wife, Claire, set up Dorsey with a friend she was studying for the bar review with at the time. Her name was Patricia, or Trish, as her friends call her.
They reluctantly agreed, and despite her blowing off the blind date attempt on two separate occasions, they met at Jack Stack barbecue in Kansas City one night.
"I thought he was very gregarious," Trish recalled of that first date. "He was a gentleman."
It's a relationship that began in one of the most iconic restaurants in Kansas City more than two decades before one of the most iconic football organizations in the NFL brought them right back full circle.
"I think people respect the fact that he's meat and potatoes," Trish said of her husband's ability to be transparent and honest in a business that's routinely described as anything but.
John fishing with his kids
Those who know Dorsey best will describe him simply as a "football guy" and family man, who would rather be fishing with his family in Door County, Wisconsin, which is the strip of land sandwiched between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, or watching film of a prospect somewhere.
This balance of family and success is derived from a work ethic developed from watching his father, Walter Dorsey, back home in Leonardtown, Maryland.
There were about 20 piers that stretched for a mile and a half. In the early mornings, we'd catch hard crabs off the piers, and by the time we finished, we'd have about a bushel. When the tide went out, we'd walk along the grass beds on the shore and get the soft crabs."
- John on his hometown
While he'll often be referred to as "Dorse" around the Chiefs offices, to those who have known him the longest, he's simply known as "John Michael."
That's what the people back in Leonardtown - a small waterfront town that sits on the Northern end of Breton Bay off the Potomac River - still call him to this day.
It's an area rich in history that's tied to the beginning of our country as St. Clements Island, which sits just a couple of miles up Breton Bay in the Potomac, was just the third settlement in America behind Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. It's also where the country's first Catholic mass was held.
Dorsey's family lineage can be traced all the way back to the first landing at St. Clements Island back in 1634, and the history was never lost upon his family, which has deep political ties to the area.
His great grandfather, Walter B. Dorsey, was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1911. His grandfather, Judge Philip H. Dorsey, was a Circuit Court Judge who was elected senator in 1926 and the House of Delegates in 1930 and 1934.
His father, Walter, was first elected state attorney in 1954, then elected to the state Senate in 1958. He was elected state attorney again in 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994.
"His father, who happened to be one of the best attorneys in St. Mary's Country, did a lot of things for people and never charged them," Joe Stone, a family friend, explained. "He was always looking out for the ordinary guy."
"John's father was his idol," Trish explained. "He always wanted to impress his dad - Walter Dorsey was larger than life."
Dorsey's mom was a housewife who later in life became the police commissioner after she had remarried. Dorsey's parents divorced when he was a teenager, and after that, his time was split between Annapolis, where his mother moved when he was in ninth grade, and Leonardtown, where his dad stayed.
Dorsey would always come back to Leonardtown, which is only about 60 miles from Annapolis, for a few months in the summer to stay with his dad.
That's where he learned the value of hard work, as he always had to find a job during the summer. Dorsey spent different summers brick laboring, working on a tobacco farm, cutting grass and later even painting oil barges at a refinery to make extra money.
When he wasn't working, Dorsey was often found by the water.
"John likes to refer to his childhood as a Huckleberry Finn childhood," Trish explained. "He was always outside, he was always playing. Friends of his family would joke about how many trips to the [ER] John took because he really played hard when he was little."
If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably do it the same way. You were exposed to a lot of different things that you probably aren't exposed to today. You got to explore and be a young boy."
- John on growing up
"If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably do it the same way," Dorsey explained. "You were exposed to a lot of different things that you probably aren't exposed to today. You got to explore and be a young man."
Dorsey recalled how he and his friends used to make a little money down by the water when they were about 10 years old.
"There were about 20 piers that stretched for a mile and a half," Dorsey explained of his hometown. "In the early mornings, we'd catch hard crabs off the piers, and by the time we finished, we'd have about a bushel. When the tide went out, we'd walk along the grass beds on the shore and get the soft crabs, probably a couple of dozen or so.
"We'd take them all up to the town and sell them to the seafood man for like 10 bucks."
Dorsey grew up with his older brother, Phil, and sister, Helen, both of whom still live back in Leonardtown.
Phil is an attorney while his sister is active around St. Mary's County with many causes.
"She wants to save the bay," Dorsey explained of Helen. "She wants to save the historical society. She's just got one of those hearts where she wants to save everybody and everything."
A lot of what Dorsey did as a kid somehow revolved around the water, where he spent most of his time, but sports were always a part of the picture for John and his brother.
"In our neighborhood, you get the Baltimore Sun on one side of the street and the Washington Post on the other," Phil explained. "So his idol was (former Baltimore Colts linebacker) Mike Curtis, and mine was (former Washington Redskins linebacker) Chris Hanburger, and we'd go to opposite ends of the yard and just run into each other - tackle each other."
The Dorsey family had a history of attending military school, which started at Leonard Hall Junior Military Academy in Leonardtown. That's where Dorsey went to school for grades five through eight.
Leonard Hall Junior Military Academy
photo courtesy of lhjna.com
"Every boy in my family for the last three generations - probably past my grandfather, they've always gone to military school," Dorsey explained. "My father, my brother went there, and I went there."
This is where he first started playing football, but Leonard Hall didn't have schools in the area to play against, so they'd play JV teams from the area high schools.
"We didn't know any better," Dorsey, who got kicked off the first football team he was ever on because they found out he was too young to play at 8 years old, explained. "I've always played against older guys."
After finishing high school in the Annapolis area, Dorsey spent two years at the historic Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he played football for the legendary coach and longtime Commandant, Robert "Red" Pulliam, who passed away in June of 2015.
"[John's] a guy at practice who always wanted to take on the biggest guy and wanted to prove to everybody that he was the toughest guy out there," Mikey Sullivan, an assistant coach at Fork Union, explained. "The way he played was far and above his amount of talent.
"He was a little undersized but had a big heart, and he played like that at Fork Union. He did very well for us."
Maybe it was all of those times of pretending to be Mike Curtis with his brother that developed Dorsey's toughness on the field, or perhaps it was some kind of intrinsic motivation to come out of the large shadow cast by his father's political life, but Dorsey was good at football.
The decision to go to Fork Union and be introduced to Pulliam, who turned out to be one of the most influential people in his life, was pivotal in Dorsey getting to where he is today.
"Coach Pulliam was a very unique person for all of us," Sullivan, whom Dorsey explained as being a "mini-me" of Pulliam, said. "He had an unbelievable ability to make you believe in yourself - believe you are capable of achieving greatness, and at the same time, hold you accountable for everything you did.
"He was such a good person. You were afraid to ever embarrass him or let him down."
Pulliam spent 40 years in some capacity at Fork Union, most notably as its head football coach and longtime Commandant. He compiled a remarkable record of 170-69-7 during his 26 years as the head coach, serving as director of development, chief operations officer and later as a member of the board of trustees after he finished coaching.
Fork Union football team
Fork Union has seen more than 80 of their alumni drafted into the National Football League, including quarterback Vinny Testaverde, running back Eddie George, receiver Mike Quick and Dorsey himself, among others.
"For every kid that walks through our doors, if they grow up to be successful fathers, husbands or contributors to society, we won," Sullivan explained. "And with John Dorsey, we won again."
Dorsey was inducted into the Fork Union Military Academy Sports Hall of Fame last June.
His father was scared to fly. So I got invited to go along with Walter a lot because he wanted somebody to drive him. Luckily, I was able to go along quite a bit because he wanted to go to every game he could to see John Michael play."
- Jan Norris, family friend
Following a two-year standout career at linebacker at Fork Union, Dorsey originally committed to North Carolina, but he changed his mind after being told he wouldn't play until he was a junior. Now free to go where he wanted, Dorsey opted for Connecticut thanks to a connection with an old college teammate of his father at Western Maryland.
When I was a freshman, I was on the 'look' team, and we'd give them a good look, like a real good look," Dorsey laughed. "It was like week three or four when I really knew I could play with these guys."
- John on his freshman year at UConn
Dorsey began his college career as an outside linebacker.
"When I was a freshman, I was on the 'look' team, and we'd give them a good look, like a real good look," Dorsey laughed. "It was like week three or four when I really knew I could play with these guys. And so finally I got the trust of the coaches and they finally decided to put me in there and they put me on the outside."
It wasn't until later that Dorsey would move to a different position, and it ultimately changed his life.
"I think the defining moment [of my career] was when they shifted me to an inside backer," Dorsey recalled. "That kind of changed the whole dynamic of everything."
He explained why he liked playing on the inside.
"You can make more tackles," he laughed. "We faced a lot of Wing-T teams back then, and they could run away from you on the outside but they couldn't run away from you on the inside."
Jan Norris, a next door neighbor, who had actually babysat Dorsey as a young kid when she was a teenager, remembers travelling to many of his games in college.
"His father was scared to fly," Jan explained. "So I got invited to go along with Walter a lot because he wanted somebody to drive him. Luckily, I was able to go along quite a bit because he wanted to go to every game he could to see John Michael play."
Dorsey was a four-year starter (1980-83) for the Huskies football program and was twice named the Yankee Conference's Defensive Player of the Year (1982-83). He still ranks as the all-time leading tackler in program history with 495 career tackles and holds the single-season record with 184 tackles (1983).
After a stellar college career, which recently landed him on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot, Dorsey was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
John while playing for Green Bay
photo courtesy of Vernon Biever/Packers.com
At the time, he thought he was going to the Miami Dolphins, but fate had other plans.
"First thing I noticed was meeting Forrest Gregg - going, 'Holy crap, that's Forrest Gregg,'" Dorsey explained of arriving in Green Bay. "That was a big deal to me."
John's Scouting Report
Gregg was a six-time Super Bowl champion who played for 16 seasons in the NFL and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played collegiately at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas, where one of his college teammates was Lamar Hunt, founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and the American Football League (AFL).
When Dorsey was drafted with the No. 99 overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, Gregg was the head coach and de facto general manager for the Packers, while former CEO Bob Harlan handled the contract side of things.
A fierce linebacker with an affinity for history, which makes sense considering the lineage of his family and hometown, the opportunity to play for an organization like the Packers meant everything to Dorsey.
"You run out on the field, and then you look over at the alumni section and you quickly understood what it meant to be a Green Bay Packer," Dorsey recalled. "When Otis Anderson was knocked out of bounds, he was in front of the alumni section and the next thing you know, Ray Nitschke's pointing at him, yelling, 'Get up, this is our sideline. Get back to your huddle.'
"You're going, 'My God, it still means something to these guys.'"
It didn't take long for Dorsey to find a role with the Packers, amassing 35 special teams tackles in 1984, which still stands as a team record.
"He was like a lot of guys in a sense of - and I was one of these myself, a good old fashioned [try hard] guy," Larry McCarren, a former teammate with the Packers, explained. "I don't say that in a derogatory sense. It's more admiration because everybody respected John.
"While he wasn't the most gifted or talented guy on the team, [Dorsey] was the guy you could count on to do his job, and to do everything in his power to accomplish that job."
McCarren, who played center, vividly remembers practices against the former "try-hard" linebacker.
John (99) while playing for Green Bay
photo courtesy of Vernon Biever/Packers.com
"When you took a peek to see who you had to go up against, and it was Dorsey, you knew it wasn't going to be fun," McCarren recalled. "He's going to hit you, and he's going to hit you with everything he's got. There was no such thing as a [brother in-law] play with John.
"If you were going against him, regardless of drill - and there was a lot more rough stuff in those days - you better bring your work gloves, because he's going to be wearing his."
During his five-year career, Dorsey had 130 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries and a pass defensed. Most of his value came on special teams, where he led the Packers in tackles in three of his first four seasons, which helped him earn the nomination to be the Packers special team's captain.
Dorsey was also voted as the Packers "Man of the Year" in 1987 because of his contributions to the Green Bay community, which included heavy involvement with the Wisconsin Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
After suffering a knee injury during warmups of the season opener in 1989, Dorsey was placed on IR and missed the season.
He would never play football again, but former Packers chairman Bob Harlan, who wrote Dorsey's first contract and had grown to respect the man who maximized every bit of his potential, believed in John - the person well enough to offer him a position in the scouting department if he wanted to stay in football.
"I thought he had the personality to form good relationships with the coaches on the college campuses," Harlan recalled. "I just had a great deal of confidence in his future. He had great people skills."
I attempted to instill in each and every one of them how important it is to remember the guys that came before you. I was very fortunate that the people who came to work for me adapted to my style, and they really and truly did a tremendous job."
- Ron Wolf, former Packers general manager
Two years before they won Super Bowl XXXI back in 1996, the Green Bay Packers personnel staff used to take frequent trips to Appleton, a town 30 miles to the southwest of Green Bay and home of the Appleton Foxes, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Seattle Mariners.
They would spend so much time grinding through film leading up to the draft that their boss, former Packers general manager Ron Wolf, thought it was best to get out and spend some time together.
"It was a moving office," Dorsey explained of those trips with Wolf - his mentor, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. "When Ron said, 'Lets go for a drive,' it meant he wanted to talk."
John and Ron Wolf
photo courtesy of Jim Biever/Packers.com
Those drives often led to Appleton, and whether or not it was Dorsey, or any of the other four members of his personnel staff who are now general managers around the league - John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders), Ted Thompson (Packers) and Scot McCloughan (Washington Redskins) - Wolf's goal was to talk business in a relaxed atmosphere.
"Whether that helped or not, I don't know, but we did that," Wolf explained. "What helped was we got to watch Alex Rodriguez start his career."
Whether that helped or not, I don't know, but we did that. What helped was we got to watch Alex Rodriguez start his career."
- Ron Wolf on trips with John
Rodriguez had been the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft by the Mariners the year before, and he was playing for the Foxes.
These NFL personnel guys were just two years shy of putting together a roster that would become a Super Bowl champion, which meant some of the decisions made and discussed during these trips were paramount in achieving that level of success.
At that time, Dorsey had been a scout for only a few years, but he was beginning to make his mark with one of the most talented personnel staffs ever assembled.
Although in Dorsey's eyes, this all almost never happened.
Soon after Wolf was hired in 1992, Dorsey remembers the first conversation they ever had. He was scouting at Rutgers and watching some film when he received a phone call.
"Some guy named Ron Wolf is on the phone for you," someone told Dorsey, as he recalled.
Dorsey thought he was getting fired.
"John, this is Ron Wolf calling, how are you doing?"
"I'm doing pretty good Mr. Wolf, how are you, sir?"
"Do you know how to work these computers?"
"Well, yes sir, I do."
"OK, good. Get on a plane, come back here and show me."
That was the first conversation between Dorsey and Wolf, and years later, the impact he would have on Dorsey's career and the careers of the other future NFL leaders in that room cannot be understated.
"I attempted to instill in each and every one of them how important it is to remember the guys that came before you," Wolf explained. "I was very fortunate that the people who came to work for me adapted to my style, and they really and truly did a tremendous job."
Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf
In 1992, Wolf hired head coach Mike Holmgren and traded for Brett Favre, then signed free agent defensive lineman Reggie White a year later in 1993, and it was those three moves that ultimately paved the way for his path to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If you ask Wolf, he'll be the first to tell you that all of their decisions were made as a group, and that one of his biggest accomplishments in Green Bay was surrounding himself with such talented and driven evaluators who weren't afraid to speak their mind.
He was willing to teach you everything you wanted to learn depending on how far you wanted to take it. We learned decisiveness. We learned of the depth on how to build a team, how to work with coaches, how to build a draft board, how to communicate and make hard decisions."
- John on Ron Wolf as a mentor
"This is not their pick; this is not my pick," Wolf explained of his process. "It was our pick. It's a pick from the Green Bay Packers, and no one's feelings could get hurt."
"He was willing to teach you everything you wanted to learn depending on how far you wanted to take it," Dorsey explained of his mentor. "We learned decisiveness. We learned of the depth on how to build a team, how to work with coaches, how to build a draft board, how to communicate and make hard decisions.
"And ultimately, how to make the pieces work, and if they didn't work, how to find a solution to whatever lies ahead of you."
The respect was mutual between Dorsey and his mentor.
"If we needed an answer to a question, he would get that answer," Wolf recalled of Dorsey as a young scout. "He wouldn't quit until he had an answer or until we had a problem solved."
It's the work ethic driven by watching his father all those years back in Leonardtown manifesting itself decades later in the prism of a football team.
Dorsey recalled one night he was working late with Schneider before the 1995 NFL Draft, and it was about 5:00 p.m. when Wolf came to them with a task.
"I want that box done by tomorrow morning," Wolf said to them, pointing at a hanger box full of almost 600 VHS tapes.
It was going to be a late night.
"Schneider and I stayed there till 3:30 a.m., and we watched every tape," Dorsey recalled. "We found one player and we drafted him - running back Travis Jervey."
Jervey, who played collegiately at The Citadel, was selected by the Packers in the fifth round of the 1995 draft with the 170th overall pick. He made the Pro Bowl in 1997 as a standout special teams player and actually laid one of the first blocks that sprung Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return touchdown late in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, which gave the Packers a 35-21 lead and ultimately sealed the victory.
Dorsey spent six years as a scout for the Packers before being promoted to director of college scouting in 1997. It's a position he held for only two years before leaving to join Holmgren in Seattle in the same role in 1999.
Dorsey returned to Green Bay after just one year.
John while with the Packers
photo courtesy of Matt Becker/Packers.com
At the time he was in Seattle, he had two young sons, Bryant and Austin, who were teenagers and would soon be entering high school.
"I thought it was important for them to have their father around," Dorsey explained, "so I decided to go back to Green Bay and make sure I saw those kids grow through their high school years."
Bryant is now a district attorney back in the Green Bay area, while Austin lives in the area as well and is a commercial and residential electrician.
"They love it there, and they've turned out to be really good young men," Dorsey explained of his two oldest sons. "So that makes me proud."
I remember the first thing I said. I told him, 'It's a class organization that has a wonderful fan base. I've known the Hunt family for years and respect them tremendously. I think you've got to take it. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to tell you to take that job.'"
- John on Ron Wolf as a mentor
After Harlan retired in 2008, he always made it a point during the Packers home games to sit with the personnel staff because he really didn't feel like sitting with the executives.
"John always had a seat for me," Harlan explained. "He kind of took care of me."
When Dorsey first got permission to interview with the Chiefs after the 2013 season, which is one of only two jobs he always said he'd ever leave for, Harlan was one of the first people he called.
"I remember the first thing I said," Harlan recalled of that conversation. "I told him, 'It's a class organization that has a wonderful fan base. I've known the Hunt family for years and respect them tremendously. I think you've got to take it. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to tell you to take that job.'"
The opportunity to come to Kansas City also meant something to Dorsey's wife, Trish, who grew up in the small town of Abilene - which sits just an hour to the west of Manhattan.
Trish attended the University of Kansas and got her law degree from Washburn, and she continued working for a Kansas City-based law firm even when they were living in Green Bay.
"I was thrilled by the possibility of it, but I know football is a very complicated business," Trish, who remembers being in the kitchen at their home in Green Bay when John called and told her of the opportunity, explained. "And so, I was very excited but tried to keep my bearings about it. It just seemed impossible that all the stars would line up for us to come back."
Just a few days later, Dorsey called Harlan to give him the news.
"Quite honestly, I would have been disappointed if he hadn't taken it," Harlan recalled.
It wasn't the first offer Dorsey had to become a general manager, or even the second, but it was the one he was waiting for.
Wolf, who retired in 2001, has his handprints all over the NFL right now with five of his former protégés holding general manager positions, not to mention that his son, Eliot, is currently the director of football operations for the Packers.
"It means a great deal to me," Wolf explained of the success of those who worked for him. "You've got four of the five guys in the playoffs last year. There's no substitute for hard work, and they're enjoying the fruits of their labor now. Like I said, there's only so many of those jobs in the NFL, and five of them came from here.
"I'm very, very proud of that."
John and Andy Reid with the Chiefs
In Kansas City, Dorsey was able to reunite with a coach who had been with him in Green Bay for nine years (1992-99), Andy Reid.
"Back then, we were both in lower positions, about as low as you could be in both of our jobs when we first started off together," Reid recalled. "We've been able to last a little bit in this business, and so you'd hope you have the opportunity to be a GM, and you hoped to have a chance to be a head coach, so it's worked out for both of us."
It symbolizes everything I believe in. From the proud tradition, to the fan base, to the ownership. I mean, everything matched what I thought was important in professional football."
- John on joining the Chiefs
From the beginning, Dorsey impressed those within the Chiefs organization.
"His enthusiasm for the opportunity came across even before that interview," Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said at the time. "I had a chance to speak with him on the phone a couple days before that (interview), and he expressed how excited he was that I was reaching out to him. In his interview, although it went on for a while, he showed a high degree of enthusiasm the whole way.
"I know he has had chances to go other places, and for whatever reason, he decided not to, and I am thrilled that we were able to attract him to the Chiefs."
"It symbolizes everything I believe in," Dorsey explained of joining the Chiefs. "From the proud tradition, to the fan base, to the ownership. I mean, everything matched what I thought was important in professional football."
"The immediate impression, especially in that context, was that he's a football guy," Chiefs president Mark Donovan recalled of Dorsey's interview. "You can argue different approaches to what the GM has to handle, but he has a passion for it."
Those who had known Dorsey for a while, like his friend Hans Schaup from Green Bay, had no issues putting their money on the line knowing the kind of success Dorsey would have sooner rather than later.
Hans Schaup and John
"I became a Chiefs season ticket holder that April," Schaup explained. "[Dorsey] gave me the number to call, and now I have four seats right on the 30-yard line behind the Chiefs bench. That's how much confidence I have in [Dorsey] and Andy [Reid] turning around the ship."
In just a short time, Dorsey has taken the lessons he learned from Wolf, and just like Schneider in Seattle, McCloughlan in Washington, McKenzie in Oakland and Thompson in Green Bay, made them fit with the Chiefs.
"I think we tweak it to our strengths and weaknesses," Dorsey explained of his philosophy. "We all put our own stamp on it, but the blueprint is there. I've always said, 'We're 85 percent Atlanta Braves, and 15 percent Oakland Athletics.
"Touch it, feel it, smell it - Braves. Analytics - Athletics."
I remember the first year, we had a lot of circles up on the board. This year, there aren't those 'circles,' so that's a good thing."
- Reid explained of the personnel staff
Dorsey is more of an eye-test guy, and it has served him well throughout his career and particularly over the past couple of years overhauling a roster in Kansas City.
"I remember the first year, we had a lot of circles up on the board," Reid explained of the personnel staff he uses to analyze the roster. "This year, there aren't those 'circles,' so that's a good thing."
One of the most valuable lessons Dorsey learned while working for Wolf was that everything was in the details. That showed itself in many ways, particularly leading up to each NFL Draft.
As they would set their draft board each week, the scouts would have to take turns setting the board under the watchful and detailed eye of Wolf.
"[Wolf] would go down every team's board, and he would know every tag," Dorsey recalled. "If it was your week to do the board, God help you if you can't find those mistakes. Every week, once a week, he would come in there and find a mistake and go, 'I think so and so is not in there. I believe that number's wrong. I believe he ran a 4.48 not a 5.28.'"
It was an amazing display and goes to show you the level of detail Wolf had throughout his career, and it's a process Dorsey has kept for the next generation of potential general managers on his staff.
John in the Chiefs Draft Room
"We still try to adhere to that principle today with the young scouts," Dorsey explained. "And they'll tell you, we still do that. Jimmy Noel and Matt Donahoe, we still get them on that board."
Dorsey's right-hand man with the Chiefs is Chris Ballard, who left the Chicago Bears after 12 years in their personnel department to join Dorsey in Kansas City.
"I trusted him," Ballard, who first crossed paths with Dorsey while scouting at Louisiana Tech back in 2000, and then later on, when Dorsey helped organize the Hula Bowl, a college football showcase that ran for more than 60 years before ending in 2008, explained. "Especially just knowing a lot of the people I knew in Green Bay, knowing [Dorsey], and knowing what he stood for and what kind of man he was, it made it an easy decision."
Ballard, who is widely considered one of the top evaluators in the game as well, has learned plenty from his mentor over the past four years in Kansas City.
"I've learned from John that there's always a player out there and you've always got to continue to dig and look, and you can't be scared to bring that guy on your team," Ballard explained. "You've got to be aggressive. If you think this guy's better than somebody that you have, you've got to be willing to make the move. We're not drafting for our egos. We are drafting for the Chiefs and I've learned that from John.
"It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. It only matters what we think in that room because at the end of the day it's the Chiefs' pick."
One of the most recent moves that's attributed with the success of the personnel staff was the decision to draft the NFL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, cornerback Marcus Peters.
"One thing about [Dorsey] is he never makes it about him," Ballard explained. "It's about us. It's about that room - the coaches, the scouts, and all of us getting it right together. At the end of the day, that's what always stays. Even when he has a strong belief in a particular player, he wants to get everybody on board with it."
In the case of Peters, Dorsey wanted to get everyone on board.
"He absolutely, unequivocally wanted Peters," Ballard recalled of the work leading up to that draft. "I give him a lot of credit for that because everybody tried to poke holes in his steadfast belief that this kid was a good kid at heart and was going to be a great player for the Chiefs.
"And he was right - he was dead right."
After a Pro Bowl season and plenty of hardware and accolades for his rookie season, Peters' relationship with Dorsey is one of mutual respect.
"We understand each other," Peters explained of him and Dorsey. "When we need to talk, we talk, but I love him. He's a cool dude."
Whether it's hitting on a first-round pick or a slew of waiver-wire pickups, as was the case back in 2013 when the Chiefs picked up seven players after rosters were cut down to just 53 players, Dorsey showed you can build depth of talent in any number of ways.
Three of those seven players are still on the roster, and two of them, safety Ron Parker and defensive lineman Jaye Howard, are starters for a defense that's allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL over the past two years.
Both of those players have also earned multi-year contract extensions from Dorsey and the Chiefs.
"That was probably one of my most fun days in scouting," Ballard recalled of that waiver-wire period back in 2013. "I've never been a part of something where we had to claim so many players and found so many players."
I mean, we're going to have players that we don't get right, but at the end of the day, we're going to find the right players for the Chiefs, and [Dorsey's] outstanding at that."
- Chris Ballard on John
Ballard has also learned from Dorsey how to deal with missing on a player.
"We might make a decision that we'll back away and have to move on from because it's not the best thing for the team in the long run, and that stings every once in a while, all of us," Ballard added. "I mean, we're going to have players that we don't get right, but at the end of the day, we're going to find the right players for the Chiefs, and [Dorsey's] outstanding at that."
Dorsey often describes himself as an "eternal optimist," which is an apt description for a man who had his fair share of blue-collar jobs growing up, and he's taken that same attitude to what many would consider a job that's far from blue collar.
"The one thing I don't think people realize is, those years in the trenches, those years scouting on his own in a rental car in the backwoods of Mississippi or Georgia, or wherever, trying to do the extra piece of research on a certain player," Donovan explained. "The work he put in and his understanding of how important that work is, that little detail, which says, that's why you don't draft that guy, or that's why you do draft that guy - those are his best stories."
Getting that blue-collar attitude out of Dorsey is easier said than done.
"We had to deal with it this offseason," Donovan laughed. "He's a general manager now, and to start taking off and going to some back neighborhood to talk to friends of a potential player may not be what he needs to do right now.
"He's still trying to do the things that he used to do as a scout because he knows the importance of the little details."
If he tells you something is blue today, it's going to be blue tomorrow. It won't be blue today and green tomorrow. He's a straight shooter - always has been."
- Tony Paige, Perennial Sports and Entertainment
In the world of professional football, which is often portrayed as anything but honest and forthcoming, Dorsey's reputation, described as "flawless" by NFL super-agent, Tom Condon, stretches across the spectrum of people he's worked with over the years.
"If he tells you something is blue today, it's going to be blue tomorrow," Tony Paige, the executive vice president of football for Perennial Sports and Entertainment, said. "It won't be blue today and green tomorrow. He's a straight shooter - always has been."
Paige played nine years in the NFL and first became friends with Dorsey when he was a fullback for the Detroit Lions at the same time Dorsey was playing with the division-rival Packers.
"He's one of the best and most talented evaluators I've ever known," Paige added. "I've been an agent for more than 20 years and in this league for more than 30, so I've got a lot of respect for the guy.
"Nobody watches more film than him."
Beyond the film room, Dorsey has earned his reputation by being genuine with people, regardless of whether they're interns during training camp or parishioners at his church.
"He's really concerned about the character and giving people a chance," Bishop Bob Morneau of the Resurrection Church of Green Bay, explained of Dorsey, whom he'd grown close with all those years Dorsey and his family lived in Green Bay.
Morneau remembers watching Dorsey chase around his two youngest children, Jack and Catherine, in the narthex during mass on Sundays because as Morneau said, "they were a little rambunctious" and had to step out.
"I just remember how attentive he was to the children and how loving," Morneau recalled, "and then I was just impressed with his character. He's always been a gracious man - a man of great moral character."
To this day, Dorsey considers Morneau one of the most influential people in his life, and he'll call and ask for a prayer from Morneau for the players heading into a big weekend, and it's never about winning, but rather about keeping them safe.
Bishop Bob Morneau and John
When the Chiefs played in Green Bay over the last two years, Dorsey invited Morneau to the team hotel to offer a church service for any players who wanted to attend.
Dorsey's faith is important to him.
"He has an appreciation for their life outside of just football," Morneau explained. "He trusts in a person and their families and their interests. He has a real sense of human dignity and these individuals are persons, not just football players."
He has an appreciation for their life outside of just football. He trusts in a person and their families and their interests. He has a real sense of human dignity and these individuals are persons, not just football players."
- Bob Morneau on John
One example of this taking place was with former Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent linebacker out of Middle Tennessee State back in 2011.
Lattimore's agent - Tony Agnone of Eastern Athletic Services - has known Dorsey for more than three decades because he actually tried signing him as a client when he was coming out of college. Agnone explained that Lattimore wasn't ready for a lot of things coming into the NFL.
"[Dorsey] did everything he could to help him," Agnone recalled. "He helped him get a car and even helped him get a sport coat. He helped get his apartment taken care of. I mean, John personally did that. That is the kind of thing that you don't really see much in the NFL right now.
"That's really kind of an old school thing."
Agnone and Dorsey have a streak going at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, going back a couple of decades in which they make sure to find one day to eat breakfast together every year.
One of Dorsey's favorite sayings is, "God created two ears and one mouth," which is fitting for the way he has developed his reputation around the league.
"I think what a lot of people don't understand is how much of a relationship business the business of football really is," Rick Smith, a partner at Priority Sports and Entertainment, explained. "The guys who understand that happen to get a lot of things done, and guys who don't, struggle.
"Dorsey understood that right away. He listens to you. He calls you back and hears what you have to say, and he'll change his mind if he hears something a little different than what he's thinking that makes more sense to him. He's just great that way, and I think that certain transactions happen in Kansas City because of those relationships.
"I think all things being equal, you tend to want to do business with guys that allow you to do your job, and [Dorsey] gives that probably more than anybody in this business."
What he's best at is what's most valuable to this organization - building a team, evaluating talent, putting people in the right places and working with a coach. If you asked him, I'd assume that would be his answer, too.
- Mark Donovan, Chiefs president
It's something Dorsey was taught as a kid, and it stuck with him.
"There's five people you meet through life's journey who make an impact on your life," he explained.
Outside of his family, obviously, Dorsey said he's already identified four of those people in his life - starting with Robert "Red" Pulliam from Fork Union, continuing with Harlan, Wolf and Morneau in Green Bay.
Those are the non-family members who have had the biggest influence on who and where Dorsey is today, and beyond that, there's simply a deep appreciation and love for the game of football.
John looks on as the Chiefs face the Packers in the 2016 preseason
"When you talk to John about football, you can't get away with just talking about the season," Trish explained. "You have to be really well-versed in the history of it. As the game has become so much more commercial and so much more pop culture, he's grown with that, but he's never lost sight of the history."
Whether its quizzing interns during training camp about current and former NFL players, or maintaining old friendships that lead to moves which could hopefully bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Kansas City, Dorsey has done things the right way through his tenure so far.
Everybody that has been a part of his life, he's still much entwined with and keeps in touch with. He's never forgotten anybody. You don't find that a lot of times once people become very successful."
- Ron Jensen on John
"What he's best at is what's most valuable to this organization - building a team, evaluating talent, putting people in the right places and working with a coach," Donovan explained. "If you asked him, I'd assume that would be his answer, too.
"He's learning all of the other things - with the media and business stuff that we make him do, that's a part of it and it's important, but at the end of the day, what we want him to be the very best at is what he is the very best at."
Through it all, Dorsey has never forgotten where he came from.
"Everybody that has been a part of his life, he's still much entwined with and keeps in touch with," Ron Jensen, a friend back in Leonardtown, explained. "He's never forgotten anybody. You don't find that a lot of times once people become very successful."
Dorsey is the same guy who spent much of his childhood in the emergency room because he was always exploring things outside, and who still finds time to email back his old babysitter, Jan Norris, who lived next door to his parents growing up and who sends him the positions she thinks the Chiefs should focus on in the upcoming draft.
She jokingly takes credit for the Chiefs first pick being a defensive lineman in former Mississippi State Bulldog Chris Jones.
On a deeper level, Dorsey provides items each year for an auction back in his hometown in honor of his friend's daughter, Jenna Stone, who tragically passed away three years ago.
The "Jenna Stone Memorial Golf Tournament" and auction raises money for an activity fund at the local high school, St. Mary's Ryken.
"John Michael never ever misses sending something," Joe Stone, Jenna's dad, who gets "Happy Father's Day" cards from Dorsey "out of the blue," Stone explained. "It just means so much to me."
John and Joe Stone
That's the Dorsey they all know back in Leonardtown, and when asked about remembering longtime friends with those types of gestures, Dorsey would rather not make a big deal out of it, saying, "Those are just the things you do in life."
Those are just the things he does in life, just like the quizzes he hands out to staff members for fun or the sport coats he gets for players who need the help. There's a genuine love and respect for people underneath it all for Dorsey.
"We tend to complicate life," Dorsey explained. "You treat people the way you want to be treated, and communicate. It's pretty easy."
I've always said, 'We're 85 percent Atlanta Braves, and 15 percent Oakland Athletics. Touch it, feel it, smell it - Braves. Analytics - Athletics."
- John Dorsey, Chiefs general manager