Cincinnati Bengals safety Tony Dye’s 28-hour ascent from the practice squad to active roster to game day hero was as unlikely as it was rapid.
Growing up in Corona, Calif., Dye’s first love was hockey. He played at an elite level and even led the U.S. to the Junior Youth Hockey World Championship game in Quebec as a 14-year-old.
But if he was going to have a future in hockey, he was going to have to attend prep school in Minnesota. So Dye gave up the sport and tried football, eventually earning a scholarship to UCLA.
Injuries derailed his senior season, causing him to be undrafted, but the Bengals signed him as a free agent. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve and was cut at the beginning of 2013. But the Bengals added him to the practice squad Sept. 24 and promoted him to the 53-man roster Saturday morning to take the spot of the injured Chris Crocker.
In the second quarter Sunday, Dye scooped up a punt that had been blocked by Jayson DiManche and returned the ball 24 yards for a touchdown to spark the Bengals’ 41-20 victory.
Still reveling in his big moment Monday afternoon, Dye was happy to answer questions for this week’s Bengals High Five:
With you not getting the call-up until Saturday, were any of your family members able to get here from California to see your debut?
No, there wasn’t enough time for them to get in. It was unfortunate, but my girlfriend is here, so it was cool that someone got to see me in person.
Can you believe the luck that you get to go to them for the next game in San Diego?
Yeah. She’s probably going to go, too, because her whole family is from there and my family is from 30 minutes outside of San Diego. Hopefully I’ll be active for that one. It would be pretty awesome.
Were you a Chargers fan growing up?
Not really. I wasn’t much of a football fan. I played hockey growing up. I didn’t play football until I got to high school. I basically went out for football so I could make friends. I had no interest in playing my first year, so I just sat the bench. I didn’t play varsity until my junior year, that kind of thing.
How did a kid from Southern California get into hockey?
My grandfather. I started at an early age, 5 or 6. That was it. No soccer, no anything, just hockey the whole way. It’s still the No. 1 sport in my mind. If the Dallas Stars called right now…
What was the highlight of you hockey career?
Playing in the World Juniors Championship. It was an awesome experience. I spent a lot of time in Canada as a kid. We came in second to the Czech Republic. We needed to see the Czech’s birth certificates. They were all 17, I swear to God. It was just like the Mighty Ducks, the Iceland team.