Where are they now: Dexter Bussey 

Dexter Bussey didn't step aside and retreat to a seat on the bench when the Detroit Lions added a star running back to the roster by drafting Billy Sims first overall in 1980.

Bussey did what he has done throughout his life in similar situations.

He considered the available options and took action to make himself part of the solution in what the Lions were trying to accomplish.

After talking with the coaching staff, Bussey moved up one spot – from halfback where he played his first six seasons with the Lions, to fullback, where he would help lead the way for Sims to be the dominating runner the Lions expected.

"It was easy from the switching standpoint," Bussey said, looking back 40 years to a pivotal career moment.

"The coaches and my teammates had the confidence that I could do it. As long as you're not afraid, you go at it, and it worked out."

There are good players in every sport whose accomplishments and value to their team isn't fully appreciated until long after their playing days.

Bussey is one of those good players who brought value to the Lions in his 11-season career.

His position switch in 1980 – from halfback to fullback -- worked out better than could have been expected.

Sims lived up to expectations created from his draft position and from winning the 1978 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma. He rushed for 1,303 yards – a rookie record, since surpassed – and 13 touchdowns. Sims added 51 receptions for 621 yards, three TDs and an average of 12.2 yards per catch.

Bussey played fullback at his halfback weight of 195 pounds. He rushed for 720 yards, three TDs and an average of 5.0 yards per carry.

Sims and Bussey combined for 2,023 yards rushing. The only other time in franchise history two running backs combined for 2,000 or more yards in a season was in 1997. Barry Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards on his own. He did not need a second back to get over the 2,000-yard mark.

Bussey and Sims were teammates for five seasons, through 1984. Sims sustained what proved to be a career-ending knee injury in Week 8 of the season. Bussey retired after the season after having a reduced role – 32 carries for 91 yards.

They rank 2-3 on the franchise's all-time rushing list – 5,106 yards for Sims, 5,105 for Bussey, a yard behind the guy he blocked for.

Sanders is the all-time leader with 15,269. Sims and Bussey rank 2-3 all time behind Sanders.

Being No. 3 in that company is not a bad spot to be in.

"I'm elated to have that position," Bussey said. "You don't want to put a whole lot into where you rank, but it is important. It's important to your psyche."

Bussey, 68, has been meticulous in weighing his options on numerous fronts throughout his life.

Among them: Transferring from Oklahoma to Texas-Arlington to get a better opportunity to develop his skills; his position shift with the Lions; making Metro Detroit his home since arriving as a third-round pick by the Lions in 1974; playing over injuries and pursuing business opportunities, which he still does.

He has made so many decisions and contacts that his Rolodex could be called his Rolo-Dexter. It's still spinning.

"I'm still messing around – calling myself working," he said, laughing.

Bussey was recruited to Oklahoma out of high school in Dallas.

He had to make a major decision in college. Playing running back under two coaching legends at Oklahoma – Chuck Fairbanks as head coach, Barry Switzer as offensive coordinator – Bussey knew the deck was stacked against him.

"There were like 15 to 16 players just like me," he said. "I came in as a running back. I had the option of playing defense and wide receiver as well. We didn't really throw the ball. That wasn't an option. They never decided what position I was going to play.

"In spring ball, if they decided to move me back to defense, I was going to stay. There were a multitude of running backs."

When he was left at running back after his freshman year he transferred to Texas-Arlington, where he had three solid seasons and caught the eye of a Lions scout in a workout before the 1974 draft.

"I figured I'd get some attention," Bussey said. "I just didn't know what kind of attention. When Detroit came to scout me, they would tell me stories later on that I ran a 4.5 40 after practice in full gear. I scratched my head, if I did that. I was good at slashing. I was good at changing direction."

He was drafted in the third round, and 65th overall.

Injuries as a rookie in 1974 and again in 1977 limited his playing time, but when healthy he was productive as the lead runner. He rushed for 696 yards in 1975 and 858 in '76 – both 14-game seasons. He hit his career high of 923 in 1978, the NFL's first 16-game season.

He added 625 yards in 1979, a disastrous year when the Lions finished 2-14 and got the right to draft Sims with the first pick in 1980.

By then, Bussey had put down deep roots in Metro Detroit.

At Texas-Arlington some basketball players from Detroit had told him stories about Motown and other parts of the city.

Bussey embraced the city from the beginning. The 1974 season was the last time the Lions played their home games at Tiger Stadium. Bussey enjoyed frequenting some of the establishments for lunch with teammates or after practice and games.

"I got a chance to meet a ton of legends with my good friend Michael Danielewicz," Bussey said.

Among them were basketball stars George Gervin and Rudy Tomjanovich.

The lifestyle changed when the Lions moved to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975.

"The socializing wasn't what it was in Detroit," he said. "None of that existed in Pontiac. We probably saved a lot of money. We didn't have anything to do. It was nothing like Detroit."

Regardless of where he played – downtown at Tiger Stadium or the Pontiac Silverdome – Bussey piled up rushing yards and made contacts that would pay off in business endeavors after retirement.

He said he had numerous talks about his future and options with the late Russ Thomas, the Lions' long-time general manager, and Chuck Schmidt, his chief aide.

"Here was an organization that felt it was worth at least taking the time to talk to me about my career and options," Bussey said. "I can't say every Detroit Lion feels the way I do. I know I do.

"Time after time, I began to realize my status as a Detroit Lion opened a lot of doors. I still had to provide the results. It became pretty apparent my best options were in Detroit.

"Even to this day I have various projects I'm working on. Detroit's an unbelievable area. It's been a fantastic area for me and my wife (Kay) and my three kids. I couldn't see spending this time anywhere else."

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