Honorable Mention Selection Criteria Side Stories

Penn State Jinx

BEFORE . . . 


penn state2
Joe Pa was wrong for trusting his friend, but does anyone really believe that he intentionally looked the other way? Cancer may have killed him, but he died of a broken heart.

Synopsis: For those of you who might be curious as to whether or not The Penn State Jinx really exists, this post analyzes the four running backs (D.J. Dozier, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis) usually mentioned in support of the argument. While they don’t deserve to be called Top 10 Busts, their stories are worthwhile to clarify certain exemptions. 

  • As a 14th overall pick, Dozier was drafted too low (i.e. the Brady Quinn Exemption);
  • With almost 3,000 yards from scrimmage, Thomas was too good (i.e. the Tony Mandarich Exemption); and
  • Both Carter and Enis had their careers end prematurely because of injuries (i.e. the Steve Emtman Exemption)

With the worst career of the four, Dozier still earned an Honorable Mention despite his exemption.

As the following table shows, the running backs from the 1980s and 90s often associated with The Penn State Jinx truly were accomplished college players.



Draft (Pick) Yards from Scrimmage Yards per Carry (YPC) TD

Award Finish / NCAA Ranking

D.J. Dozier

1987 (#14) 3,840 5.2 29 8th in Heisman voting
Blair Thomas 1990 (#2) 3,778 5.4 23

10th in Heisman voting

Ki-Jana Carter

1995 (#1) 3,001 7.2 34 2nd in Heisman voting /

1st in Yards per Carry, 2nd in TDs

Curtis Enis 1998 (#5) 3,762 6.8 38

5th in Heisman /

9th in Yards, 6th in TDs

Clearly, these stats/accomplishments were quite impressive and made the players worthy of being high draft picks. Unfortunately, the following table highlights that each one failed to live up to expectations.


Player Draft (Pick) Games Yards from Scrimmage Yards per Carry (YPC) TD Fumbles

Weighted Average Value (WAV)

D.J. Dozier

1987 (#14) 43 992 4.0 9 4 8

Blair Thomas

1990 (#2) 64 2,749 4.2 9 8 20
Ki-Jana Carter 1995 (#1) 59 1,613 3.6 21 6


Curtis Enis 1998 (#5) 36 1,925 3.3 6 5


Despite the significant underperformance by these former Nittany Lions, they all escaped being called a Top 10 Bust. If you’re a fan of the Vikings (Dozier), Jets (Thomas), Bengals (Carter) or Bears (Enis), you may be upset with your team’s pick, but you probably understand why he has been excluded from the list. For the rest of you, it may help to get the additional details.

As a #14 pick, D.J. Dozier has the Brady Quinn Exemption because the expectations for someone taken outside of the first ten overall picks cannot result in one of the all-time biggest busts. Interestingly, Dozier became a baseball prospect after his football career ended.

D.J. was no Bo and didn’t know baseball.

Perhaps Dozier cut his football career short because he had the potential to play professional baseball; however, he had even less success on the baseball field and batted only .191 with 9 hits in 47 career at bats in the majors. Hey Mr. DJ, don’t think of yesterday, but even Mendoza would have been worried with a batting average that low. Then again, there’s no need for Dozier to worry because Alan Cockrell (the guy to the left), was even a bigger MLB bust than he was. After all, Cockrell was drafted 9th overall in the 1984 Draft (immediately ahead of Mark McGwire) and only got two hits in eight career at bats. With those career stats, only Moonlight Graham would have been envious.

Blair Thomas finished his career with almost 2,750 yards from scrimmage and a WAV of 20.

blair thomas
Sorry Jets fans, but 9 TDs and 8 fumbles (along with 2,750 yards) is just not bad enough.

With those numbers, he just wasn’t unproductive enough so he escaped the Top 10 Busts with the Tony Mandarich Exemption.

Ki-Jana Carter – As a rookie, Carter tore his ACL on the third carry of his first preseason game. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of his career, he missed the entire year because of the injury. In subsequent seasons, he missed significant time due to injuries such as a torn rotator cuff, broken wrist and dislocated knee cap.

Even Bonds would be envious of those pads.

During Carter’s 10-year career, his missed three full seasons and only had more than 20 carries in three of the seven seasons in which he saw any playing time. Looking at those elbow pads, I’m reminded of the Astro Turf injuries that ruined too many careers back then. Regardless, Carter gets the Steve Emtman Exemption, which is reserved for players who were too injured to prove their worth.

Curtis Enis – By the time he was 24, Enis had retired from the NFL with a degenerative knee condition. Enis’ knee problems began with a torn ACL during the 9th game (and 1st start) of his rookie season with the Bears. Presumably, Enis tore his ACL during the 3rd quarter of the game, but stayed in and played most of the 4th quarter as well. After three years of injuries, Enis just couldn’t get up anymore.

curtis enis
Where’s First Alert when you need it?

Enis’ torn ACL (along with his willingness to continue to play with the injury) should be enough to earn the Steve Emtman Exemption, but I pause because at least one Chicago sportswriter questioned the legitimacy of the injury. In particular, the writer questioned how Enis could stay in the game and bear the excruciating pain of a torn ACL given that the player had taken himself out of games for shortness of breath, back spasms (after a non-contact play), and an upset stomach (i.e. a tummy ache). That reporter was none other than First Take’s Skip Bayles, so I’ll give Enis the benefit of the doubt. Apparently, Bayles was opinionated well before he felt the need to spar with Steven Ayy (Fonzerelli) Smith.

While these each of these running backs avoided the distinction of being a Top 10 Bust, collectively they deserve recognition and help perpetuate the idea of a Penn State Jinx. Individually, the only Nittany Lion deserving of an Honorable Mention is D.J. Dozier – not because of his equally pathetic MLB career, but rather because the others were injured or not nearly bad enough.

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