By Kevin Clerici
Arizona Daily Wildcat August 26, 1996
Dennis Northcutt loves to dance.
He's not afraid to admit it. It's something he knows he does well.
He has been doing it since he was a kid. Growing up in Los Angeles, Northcutt always knew where the dance floor was at every party. That was his domain, the one place where he could let it all go - turn it out, as he would say, be in the spotlight.
Just ask him. He knows he can dance and he's proud of it.
Northcutt knows that he can run too, but it's not cockiness that guides him, it's just his 18-year-old mentality that makes him believe he can do it all. He's quick to smile and laugh about his dancing career, but it's just a hobby for now.
As a sophomore he got a chance at Dorsey (Los Angeles) High School to move up to the varsity when the team went to the playoffs. He got a chance to run the ball in that playoff game and made the most it. By the next Friday night, the 148-pound scatback wa s starting over two seniors.
Football and school is his career. He knows the key to succeeding is to make the right decisions. He graduated with a 3.3 grade-point average, sometimes staying home on weekends because he knew there would always be another party.
On the football field, Northcutt lets the hip-hop in his blood take over. He has been told a thousand times he is too small, his legs are to thin with his 5-foot-10, 160 pound frame. All of them said the only way he would get to play would be at defensive back. But that started when he was a freshman in high school, and he went on to break the school record with 23 touchdowns.
Even at 8 years old in tiny-mights football, he played fullback because he knew he could do the job.
"I'm the kind of person that likes to take control (on the field), and if I know that I can do it then I try to be creative with it," Northcutt said. "On the dance floor I know that I have quick feet and a little rhythm so I turn it out with what I got."
Taking his moves from the dance floor to the football field, Northcutt hits the holes hard and shakes his way around the defense.
"On the field, I set goals for myself. If I want to get to the end zone then I have to use the things I have to get there. I can't pound my way to the end zone because I am only 160 pounds, but I use my feet and my desire," Northcutt said.
His desire to play college ball started when he was a sophomore, but coming out of the California Interscholastic Federation's City Section, where every kid wants a shot because a scholarship is a ticket out, he knew he would have to work hard.
"Playing in the city was very rough. It was fun, but there is a lot of kids who are eager just like you to be something," Northcutt said. "Everyone wants their chance to make it out."
Northcutt's decision to come to Arizona wasn't a hard one. He always liked the school and with the chance to run in his first year, it suited him well. His mother and step-father fell in love with the campus immediately, Northcutt said. They knew it was a chance for him to get a good education and still be able to have a little fun.
"I think that Arizona fits me all-around, as far as playing football, the school, the environment," Northcutt said.
He wasted no time after he made his decision. Northcutt moved to Tucson in July, got a job and started to prepare for the season.
His work ethic and running ability stood out at Camp Cochise and he started to open a few eyes. Then at the scrimmage he busted loose for 47 yards on nine carries against the first-team defense.
Head coach Dick Tomey had little difficulty talking about his new-found talent.
"He is not opening my eyes. I have seen him. Those guys aren't hard to find," Tomey said.
Running backs coach Marc Lunsford compared him with past UA greats.
"Dennis is one of the most gifted athletes that I have ever been around," he said. "He has Ontiwaun Carter's quickness and might have Chuck Levy's speed."
All this praise without having a single game carry under his belt.
But the pressure and fame won't overcome Northcutt, who is used to the spotlight. He knows what it's like to dance in the end zone. More importantly, he knows that if his football career doesn't pan out his life won't be over.
"First and foremost, my goal is to get a degree," Northcutt said. "No one in my family has a degree and nothing would make me prouder.
"If I don't make it on the field, a degree still makes me a success. I'm going to give all I have, and if the best that I can do is not enough, well I know that everything doesn't always go your way."