If the NHL Dallas Stars called him today, Bengals safety Tony Dye would be on the first flight to Texas or wherever they happen to be skating. As it is, Dye will have to settle for picking up a blocked punt and returning it for a touchdown in his first NFL game.
Dye, a second-year player from UCLA who spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve, was signed off the practice squad by the Bengals to their 53-man roster on Saturday. and got into the scoring act in Sunday’s 41-20 win against Cleveland by returning a blocked punt 24 yards in the second quarter that gave the Bengals a 21-13 lead. Dye was also credited with one tackle and one assist while playing 12 snaps on special teams.
“It felt routine. It felt at home. I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that,” said Dye about his first NFL game experience. “It felt like I belonged out there. Nothing surprised me.”
Dye got his opportunity to play because veteran safety Chris Crocker was out with a hamstring injury. Dye said he was told earlier in the week to be ready just in case he would be needed. Just in case became reality.
Dye didn’t start playing football until he got to high school. Hockey was his sport of choice growing up in Southern California. He said his grandfather got him started skating when he was five or six years old. His California-based junior team played against the Czech Republic in the finals of an international junior championship tournament in Quebec when Dye was 13, according to a pre-draft scouting report done by Pro Football Weekly. His favorite player growing up was Mike Modano. To continue playing hockey at the higher levels of development, however, would’ve meant going to a private school in Minnesota.
“I had to make the decision of either go to prep school in Minnesota or try football. I guess it worked out,” said Dye. “No soccer, no anything, just hockey the whole way. It’s still the number one sport in my mind. If the Dallas Stars called right now…”
The Bengals (7-4) will be on their bye this week. The next game for the AFC North leaders will be at San Diego on Dec. 1. It’s close to Dye’s hometown of Corona, Calif. He got word of his promotion too late for his family to make the trip to Cincinnati for Sunday’s game, although his girlfriend was able to attend. He is hoping to get a chance to play in front of his full family in two weeks.
“Hopefully I’ll be active for that one,” said Dye. “It would be pretty awesome.”