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July 4, 2014

DODD: An athlete for life

Sometimes our fate can be determined by nature and our opportunities by our size. Sellersburg resident Mike Doggendorf is a giant of a man. However, he is about the smallest he has ever been. Many people think of the life of a professional athlete in terms of riches and glory. Mike Doggendorf has lived that life. While he experienced some glory the price his body paid could not be adequately compensated. One gets the idea that he would pay that price again. It’s the kind of thing only an athlete can accept and understand.

Perhaps one of the pivotal events in Doggendorf’s life was when his father bought him a set of weights at the age of 15. It began a long time love affair between the young man and the weight room that would take him on some pretty fantastic journeys in life.

He was a well-rounded athlete at Finneytown High School outside of Cincinnati, and by the time had had graduated with his high school class of 1969 he had played football, participated in track and field events, wrestled and was a baseball catcher. While he considered baseball his best sport a growth spurt which propelled him to 6 foot 3 inches tall led college football recruiters to come calling. He was recruited by IU and Notre Dame but it was Coach Charles Bradshaw at the University of Kentucky who signed him.

Ironically, after Doggendorf had signed Bradshaw was replaced as the football coach. By then, he had made connections and friends, including freshman coach Jim Stubblefield. Mike’s freshman year was the final season before a freshman was eligible to play varsity sports. Doggendorf ended up a three-year varsity letterman at UK. He played both offense and defense and ran kickoff returns.

One lesson he learned about performing at a high level of athletics is that as long as he could play the classroom was secondary. He recalled how he and some of his teammates got behind in class and was risking losing academic eligibility. They were called to an advisor’s office and given materials for correspondence courses and instructed to deliver them to a female student. Each week a sealed and addressed envelope was given to the players to put in the mail. That lesson assured them of passing the course regardless of a final exam grade. We discussed the irony of that situation in the 70s and the current investigation of North Carolina by the NCAA whereby former Tar Heels star Rashad McCants’ allegations of similar academic bogus subjects being offered online to remain academically eligible.

Upon graduation Doggendorf signed a two-year free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals under Coach Paul Brown with the contract being contingent upon his making the squad. The contract called for $20,000 per year with a $2,000 signing bonus the first year. Doggendorf decided he no longer had the desire to play football anymore and focused on another athletic venture. He went back to his first love of weight training to become a competitive power lifter.

His frame was now 6-5 and was supporting close to 300 pounds. For most of a decade he was a Kentucky State Champion. In a copy of Powerlifting U.S.A. his squat lift of 750 pounds and total weight of 1,905 pounds was highlighted.

Another activity caught his attention in 1984 when he entered the Highland Games in Stone Mountain, Ga. He had been invited after a strong performance in the same event as an amateur in Glascoe, Ky. A friend invited him to join the professional event .

 It was at that event that he ended up tied with then world record holder in the Sheaf Toss. It is an event where a pitchfork is used to toss a burlap bag containing 16 pounds of straw over a horizontal bar. The then world record was 25 feet, 1 inch and both men had cleared that height. Doggendorf went on to win the event eventually setting a new world record at a height of 27-1.

Doggendorf had begun working in the corrections field in 1976 at the Lexington/Fayette County jail. After a brief one year stint with the Lexington Metro Police Department he had returned to the field of corrections work at the jail eventually becoming the jail commander. This transition occurred in the late summer of 1979. The story of Mike Doggendorf’s athletic career might have ended at that point or he might have continued competing in some form of power lifting. It was another twist of fate and again one that was certainly available due to his athletic training, strength, and size that led him to the decision and career that really caused me to want to write about his life.

A friend named Mike Gill was weight training at a local health club in Lexington with a guy known as Randy “Macho Man” Savage. In a locally televised wrestling studio show one afternoon a member of the studio audience had slashed Savage’s arm with a knife.  Doggendorf was asked if he might be willing to provide security for Savage in the studio matches.

That security gig lasted a fairly short time. Another career path choice lasted considerably longer and would find Mike Doggendorf inside the ring. Next week we candidly discuss pro wrestling from the insider’s perspective and share in how pro wrestling allowed Mike Doggendorf to travel around the world.

Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

 

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