Former NFL offensive lineman Derrick Dockery played ten NFL seasons for the Redskins, Bills, and Cowboys. He is more famous in Austin, perhaps, for being one of only four offensive lineman from Texas to be taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since the year 2000.
Dockery was born and raised in Garland, Texas, where he played his high school ball at Lakeview Centennial. He was an all-state selection by the writers as a senior offensive tackle in 1998. In 1999, he signed with the University of Texas as a offensive lineman with the size projection to be a tackle.
Gifted with such size, Dockery did not win a spot in the starting lineup right away, contributing first as a rotational player and a specialist as a true 19-year old freshman in 1999. He saw all of his snaps that year at guard. As Dockery got older, he broke into Mack Brown’s starting lineup as a 21-year old junior. Dockery started the 2001 season as a reserve for the third straight year, but earned his way onto the field as a right guard, left guard, and right tackle. Such versatility earned him nine starts in 20o1, and a role as a full time day one starter as a senior in 2002.
Dockery settled in as the main piece on the right side of Texas’ offensive line as a 22 year old senior. He started at both right guard and right tackle that season, and started all thirteen games. Even though he spent more than half his time at Texas as a reserve, the NFL saw his main tools size and strength as an asset for an offensive lineman. The Washington Redskins selected Dockery in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft with the 81st pick.
Although Dockery had to sit under Mack Brown. the Redskins OL was in much worse shape when he arrived, and Dockery took over as a full time starter for head coach Steve Spurrier just four weeks in to his pro career. One year later, Joe Gibbs returned to Washington to coach football, and brought with him OL coach Joe Bugel, who took on the task of developing Derrick Dockery. Dockery was inconsistent in his first two seasons, but flourished under Bugel in 2005 and 2006, becoming a fixture on the Redskins OL. Dockery did not miss a game in four seasons with the Redskins.
That durability made him a prized free agent in March of 2007, but I don’t know that any team saw what the Buffalo Bills did when they gave Derrick Dockery “7 years, $49 million” to play in Buffalo. That is the very definition of an offer that cannot be refused, and Dockery didn’t. He protected Trent Edwards for two seasons as Buffalo’s left guard, but could never live up to the pressure of being a $7 million/year guard because, well, who could. Dockery offered Mack Brown great versatility at Texas, but he didn’t have the foot quickness to line up at tackle in the NFL, so all a guard can do to earn his salary is dress for every game (Dockery did), line up and push people around (Dockery did). If your quarterback is ball-holding Trent Edwards, and Derrick Dockery is the highest payed player on your offense, you are setting him up for plenty of criticism. And such was life as a Buffalo Bill six years ago.
In 2009, the Bills paid a lot of money to make him go away. He then opted to return to Washington and re-united with Bugel, who remained in Washington as the line coach after Gibbs retired again. Dockery filled a need in 2009 protecting Jason Campbell’s blind side, but that Washington line was not anything like the one that Dockery played with his first four years in the league. Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas, and Jon Jansen started all but seven games alongside Dockery the first four years he was there. By the time 2009 rolled around, none were healthy enough to play, and the Redskins OL featured names like Stephon Heyer, Jason Fabini, and in a unique twist, former Texas teammate Mike Williams, one of the other three OL drafted in the first three rounds from Texas since 2000.
He started 16 games for that team, and remained healthy into the 2010 season, when head coach Mike Shanahan ended up benching him in favor of Kory Lichtensteiger in Week 3. The coaches’ decision ended a run of consecutive starts by Dockery that lasted 111 games, almost exactly 7 years. From that point forward, Dockery spent three seasons as a reserve, that season with the Redskins, and then signing with his hometown Cowboys to end his career close to home.
At no point was Derrick Dockery much more than an average player. Not really at Texas and not really in the pros. But what he is a great example of is the valuable of fitting into the prototype size requirements, and being available and able to put on a uniform every single weekend. Dockery rarely so much appeared on an injury report between 1999 at Texas and 2012 with the Cowboys. In between, he made more than $30 million dollars in pro football without truly excelling at the position he played, which is not a premium position to begin with.
And while it’s easy to compare ourselves to the work done by pro footballers in our everyday lives, it’s hard to find a single example of a more reliable player in sports or elsewhere than former Texas offensive lineman Derrick Dockery. It may be impossible to find someone who was paid so handsomely to be so reliably average.