Another Glorious Return for Dwight

Sept. 7, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The name Tim Dwight and the word return go together like black and gold or Herky and hawk.

Dwight returned to Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 3 as a member of the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame, due in part to several nifty returns he made as a Hawkeye student-athlete.

A football and track star for the University of Iowa from 1994-99, Dwight owns five of the top 30-longest punt returns in school history. He was also a Big Ten champion in the 100-meter dash and conference champion and All-American in the 1,600-meter relay.

“This is humbling,” said Dwight of the Hall of Fame selection. “I grew up in Iowa City watching the Hawkeyes. I always wanted to be a Hawk and wear that Tigerhawk with pride and sport that uniform.”

Dwight ranks second in Iowa history in receiving yards (139 catches, 2,271 yards, 21 touchdowns), third in all-purpose yards (4,890 behind Sedrick Shaw and Ronnie Harmon) and tied for ninth in scoring (with Harmon, 192 points). Of all the great plays, one that sticks out to him is an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown at Penn State on Oct. 19, 1996. That score lifted Iowa to a 21-20 win in Happy Valley.

“That was probably one of the biggest plays I’ve had in my career, especially in college,” Dwight said. “That catapulted me and gave me more confidence in becoming a better punt returner and being a better football player.”

As a professional for the Atlanta Falcons, Dwight returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIII against the Denver Broncos. His 210 kickoff return yards in the game ranks second all-time.

Dwight immediately burst onto the Iowa high school scene as a star in the two sports at City High School. Then Hawkeye head coach Hayden Fry won a recruiting battle against South Carolina and Stanford for Dwight’s services.

“The good Lord blessed Tim Dwight with unbelievable talent,” Fry said. “Timmy had great toughness and he was very knowledgeable about the game of football. Above all, he was such a tremendous competitor.”

Fry recalls a kickoff in 1994 when Dwight was the first down field, colliding with two blockers before making the tackle. He said it dawned on him then that his most-gifted player shouldn’t be on the kickoff team.

“As he got to the sideline I said, `Timmy, great job, but that’s the last time I’m letting you go down because I’m afraid you’re going to get hurt.’

“He actually jerked his headgear off, threw it on the ground and doubled up both fists. I thought he was going to clean my plow right there.”

In four seasons with Dwight in the lineup, the Hawkeyes won 29 football games and played in three bowls. On the track, he was a sprinting sensation.

In order to succeed as a collegiate dual-sport athlete, Dwight said it took special coaching staffs in both sports — Fry in football and Ted Wheeler and Larry Wieczorek in track & field. Then it was up to him to strengthen his organizational and management skills to make it work.

“You have to be honest with yourself and say, `hey, I’m taking away time from my main sport that got me a scholarship,'” Dwight said. “It was a great experience; if you can do two sports like that and you’re successful, then do it. Even though it was a lot of work, it was worth the experience to represent Iowa on the oval and the football field. Every time I put on that Tigerhawk, it was go-time.”

Dwight was selected in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft by Atlanta. His 10-year NFL career included stops with San Diego, New England, New York Jets and Oakland before he retired in 2007.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long since I’ve put on a helmet,” Dwight said. “It’s nice knowing that I don’t have to put a helmet on anymore in August.”

Dwight recently moved from San Diego to San Francisco, where he owns a solar company that specializes in renewable energy. The company does business in all 50 states and worldwide, with a primary focus in Arizona, California, Colorado and Iowa.

Last Saturday, Dwight was recognized for his energy in athletics, not as an entrepreneur. He said the honor is more than an individual award.

“It represents a lot of that era in the mid-90s and who played then,” Dwight said. “I went out there and competed and tried to represent myself, my family and my school the best I could. I was fortunate to play with some good football players.”