By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The first time I ever heard of Tim Dwight was in the fall of 1990.
I was working at the Des Moines Register on the opening night of the high school football playoffs.
One of my responsibilities was to gather information on the Class 4A playoff games that our staff wasn’t covering in person.
I took a call from someone who had information on the game between Davenport Assumption and Iowa City High.
Assumption defeated City High 34-21, but all this person wanted to talk about was a tiny little freshman from City High named Tim Dwight, who scored on a long touchdown run the first time he touched the ball.
Dwight had been promoted from the freshman team for the playoffs, and he showed right away that he was special.
Now turn the clock back to today and that tiny freshman is 46 years old, with Dwight having been born on this day in 1975.
And while it’s been more than a decade since Dwight last played in the NFL, and nearly a quarter century since he last played for the Iowa Hawkeyes, his popularity has withstood the test of time.
The spotlight, and the cheers have faded, but the memories are as strong as ever; the electrifying punt and kick returns, the difficult catches, the bone-jarring blocks, and of course, the unmatched competitiveness and hustle.
Hayden Fry once called Tim Dwight the greatest competitor he ever coached, and that covers a lot of territory.
Dwight was blessed with blazing speed, but he also worked incredibly hard to make himself better.
I remember the late John Raffensperger saying how fortunate he was to coach Dwight in track and field at City High, because in addition to being a generational talent, Dwight was also his hardest worker.
And when your best performer is your hardest worker, it helps to set a tone and create a culture of winning.
Dwight helped launch a dynasty in track and field at City High that lasted throughout the 1990s, and helped make Raffensperger a coaching legend.
Dwight also made all-state three times in football, and led City High to the Class 4A state title in 1993, rushing for 236 yards and four touchdowns in the championship game, a 42-14 rout over Sioux City Heelan.
He was a four-time state champion in the 200-meter dash, and a three-time winner in the long jump.
He was a consensus All-America return specialist at Iowa where he returned five punts for touchdowns, and finished his career in 1997 as Iowa’s all-time leading receiver with 2,271 yards. He also finished seventh in the voting for the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1997
Dwight now ranks third in career receiving yards at Iowa behind Marvin McNutt and Derrell-Johnson-Koulianos.
Dwight was also named the outstanding male performer at the 1999 Big Ten Outdoor Championships after winning the 100 and running on two first-place relays.
He was selected in the fourth-round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons and would go onto play 10 seasons in the NFL for five different teams.
In Super Bowl XXXIII with the Falcons, Dwight as a rookie returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown on Jan. 31, 1999.
Dwight is now in the solar energy business, and he approaches that with the same zest and energy that fueled him as an athlete.
Lightning fast Tim Dwight ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/yxgqqxqvaW
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) July 8, 2021
The son of a teacher, Dwight does nothing half speed.
I’m told that he used to jog, and sometimes sprint, while delivering newspapers as a kid growing up on the southeast side of Iowa City.
So many thoughts come to mind when thinking about Tim Dwight, including his matchup against Bettendorf and Tavian Banks in the 1992 high school football playoffs.
I’ve watched too many high school football games to count, but the matchup between City High and Bettendorf in 1992 stands above all the others.
It was rare to have one player as talented as Dwight, but that game at City High had two.
Dwight and Banks both rose to occasion and put on a show before a packed house that people still talk about to this day.
I’m fortunate to have covered Tim Dwight as a Hawkeye, and to have gotten to know his father, who is also named Tim.
It was clear after becoming acquainted with Dwight’s father where his son got his energy and competitiveness.
The house in Iowa City in which I currently reside I purchased from Tim Dwight the son in 2008. His father heard that I was looking for a house and the three-bedroom ranch with a big fenced-in backyard for my dogs was just what I wanted
Tim Dwight was blessed with immense physical talent, but he also had some shortcomings, including being just 5-foot-8 and weighing less than 200 pounds.
Dwight’s lack of size kept him from being a running back in college. He gave running back a chance as a freshman in 1994 before switching to receiver in 1995.
Dwight wanted to get on the field full-time as quickly as possible, but that would’ve been hard playing behind Sedrick Shaw and Tavian Banks at running back.
So Dwight checked his ego and did what was best for the team, and for him in the long run.
He loved playing running back, but sometimes, you have to sacrifice and Dwight was always willing to sacrifice in the spirit of competition.
Most probably remember Dwight for his blazing speed, and for his fearlessness on the football field, but for me, Dwight’s work ethic and competitiveness deserve equal respect.
Imagine what he could’ve earned if Name, Image and Likeness had been available during his time as a Hawkeye. Dwight’s No. 6 Hawkeye jersey still is popular to this day, and he would’ve been a huge seller for him with NIL.
Dwight defied the odds by playing for a decade in the NFL despite his size. Some of it was just good luck, but Dwight also worked hard to keep his body in shape. He played with an aggressive style, and yet, never suffered a serious injury in the NFL.
I rarely write about Tim Dwight anymore, but with today being his 46th birthday, this column is my way of paying tribute to his greatness and saying happy birthday to an Iowa City legend.