A few years ago a doctor gaped at the X-rays of Ken Dyer's mangled neck and and told the former Bengals safety he should have died on that spot in 1971 at Lambeau Field where the knee of Packers running back John Brockington met his head in a collision that still resounds through Bengaldom.
But until he died of heart failure Sunday in Arizona a week shy of 64, Dyer kept confounding the doctors. He was never supposed to get out of a wheelchair, but he never got in one. He was never supposed to walk, but he owned and supervised a dry cleaning business. He wasn't supposed to be able to father children, but his youngest son, Jason came along more than five years after Brockington's knee ended Ken's career at age 25.
"He never wanted anything from anybody," Scott Dyer said Monday from Mesa, Ariz., as his oldest son remembered. "You think about that with everything going on today. He never really pursued getting anything from the NFL. He just went to work. And it was hard. Something that would take you or I 10 minutes to do would take him 25. He could walk and he could move, but he was never 100 percent."
Bengals president Mike Brown was there that day.
Oct. 3, 1971.
Brown can still see the 6-3, 190-pound Dyer motionless on the grass after the 6-1, 225-pound Brockington had broken past the line of scrimmage. Brockington did that a lot that year, his rookie season in which he bounded for 1,105 yards in one of those 14-game seasons. On this day he would finish with 120 yards on 19 carries in a 20-17 win over the Bengals.
But it was one carry that Scott Dyer has never seen on film but changed everything.
"Brockington got through and his knee came up and met Ken's helmet," Brown said. "And it was bad because Ken's head was going down toward the ground. He didn't move. He never got up. I remember going up to the hospital and seeing him later out in Arizona and I was just amazed by him. He never complained. He went on with his life and it had to be difficult, but he pushed forward. I've always admired him for it. It's quite remarkable."
Scott was born about eight months after the play in June 1972. Told he couldn't have any more children, his parents adopted Lance, 34. Then their youngest son, Jason, 33, was born. Ken also leaves six grandchildren along with his amazed sons.
With his playing career over, Ken Dyer stayed home in Arizona and went to work as a salesman for some large soap companies. Then he bought his own dry cleaning business before retiring about two years ago. He didn't keep in much contact with his old teammates and he didn't talk much about the play. His mother told Scott it was pride. He just didn't want people to see him less than 100 percent.
"It's a sad story, really, when you think about it," Scott Dyer said. "We've been looking through some pictures and books, and he played every sport. Then here is this young guy chasing his dream and in an instant it was gone."
Dyer was the 100th player taken in the 1968 NFL Draft by the Chargers as a wide receiver out of Arizona State and that rookie year he found defense to his liking. He played in all 14 games and had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He didn't play the next season, but surfaced on the 1970 Bengals and played in 12 games and had three interceptions for Cincinnati's first division champs. The next year he played in only one game.
"I was on the right corner when it happened," former Bengals cornerback Ken Riley said Monday night. "John Brockington. Out of Ohio State. He had tremendous knee action. Really got them up high. Kenny ducked his head and he couldn't get up. It's something you never forget. It makes you wonder, but you can't worry about it when you're playing.
"We were thrilled when we heard later that he had regained use of his arms and that he could walk. He was a private person, but very proud. He went on with his life and that's how he played. He went out and just did his job."
Scott Dyer and his father were co-owners of a fantasy NFL team the past few years, so he knew what was going on with the Bengals and the rest of the NFL. He may not have said much, but it was obvious how he felt about the game.
"You mention it," Scott said, "and his face would light up."
A viewing is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. Friday at Queen Haven, 1562 East Baseline Rd., Mesa, AZ, 85204. Phone number is 480-892-3729. There is a 10 a.m. funeral service Saturday at Queen Haven followed by burial at Mesa City Cemetery at 1212 North Center St.