Donteea Dye lined up in the slot, to the right of Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston.

In the fourth quarter with the ball at midfield, Winston dropped deep in the pocket and saw Dye – a 22-year-old undrafted rookie – streaking for the end zone.

Running at full speed, Dye turned back and secured the catch between two defenders, then crashed to the turf and rolled to a stop just shy of the goal line. He flipped the ball over his shoulder and celebrated the longest reception of his career.

But there was a problem – the whistle didn’t blow.

Dye was credited with a 47-yard catch and fumble at the 1-yard-line, recovered by Bucs’ tight end Luke Stocker. On the next play, Stocker caught a short pass for a Tampa Bay score.

The date was Thursday, December 17, 2015. The Bucs’ late touchdown only helped the final score from the Edward Jones Dome appear respectable:

St. Louis Rams 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23

Dye hasn’t been that close to an NFL endzone since, and the Rams never played in St. Louis again.

Feb 23, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Fans wait to enter the gates prior to the start of a game between the St. Louis Battlehawks and the NY Guardians at The Dome at America’s Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports


Orlando Apollos, Los Angeles Wildcats, Tampa Bay Vipers – Dye went on to wander the wilderness of professional football, and seven years after the last NFL game was played in the Gateway City, the BattleHawks hope he creates more magic on the Dome carpet.

“Donteea’s been great, he’s got a tremendous amount of speed,” head coach Anthony Becht said during a video press conference on Wednesday.

“He’s got tremendous burst, one of our fastest receivers – he’s put in the work and with the competition every day, these guys have to come out and compete and he’s done that.”

Given the quality of the BattleHawks’ receiving corps, Dye can’t take a roster spot for granted.

Becht gushed over the BattleHawks’ crop of playmakers, a group that includes two receivers with recent NFL experience and familiarity with the West Coast hybrid offense that St. Louis will feature when the season opens in two weeks.

“When you look at guys like Marcell Ateman and Darrius Shepherd, they probably lead the charge right now,” Becht said.

“Marcell is a little more of a contested (catch) guy, he’s not going to get a ton of separation, but he knows how to run routes, he’s got great technique.

And then you look at Darrius, every time he runs a route, he’s open. He understands leverages, spacing – he’s a guy, that when you get him the ball, he’s going to have some space to run.”

Decisions loom for wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl and offensive coordinator Bruce Gradkowski, as the roster must be cut down to 50 players prior to opening day.

“We got some tough calls to make, but Donteea has shown up every day and he’s done a really good job. Whatever that number is, whether we keep six or seven (receivers), we like nine or ten of these guys.”

Persistence in the face of adversity isn’t new to Dye.

Donteea shattered his knee in high school and the injury discouraged college programs from recruiting him. He starred on the gridiron at Heidelberg University, a Division-III school in Ohio with an enrollment of 1,300 students – far from the gaze of football fans and NFL scouts alike.

But the speedster ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and the Buccaneers invited him to training camp. Dye caught 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in 2015, but he did not record a catch in 2016 and was cut prior to the 2017 season.

A highlight of Dye’s “gaffe” on Thursday Night Football is posted to the official NFL YouTube channel with a derogatory caption: “Near Fail: Tampa Bay WR Donteea Dye Celebrates Too Early!”

The replay shows Dye was, in fact, downed by contact with Rams’ safety Maurice Alexander and CBS announcer Ian Eagle said as much on the broadcast.

Perhaps that’s another reason Dye is a perfect fit to return to the Dome – St. Louis can relate to being slandered by the NFL.

The BattleHawks open the 2023 season on Sunday, February 19 at San Antonio at 2 p.m. on ABC.

Andy Carroll
Andy Carroll

Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505