Skip to main content

Magic was refuge for Jon Dorenbos

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jon Dorenbos can take over the locker room by pulling out a deck of playing cards.

Teammates, staff, even reporters flock to see Dorenbos perform various card tricks he mastered long before he reached the NFL.

Football is the way Dorenbos makes his living. Magic is his passion.

Dorenbos turned to magic as a kid after his father murdered his mother in 1992. It helped him through a traumatic period in his life and he's turned it into a nice side career.

Dorenbos is pretty good at his day job, too: He's been a long snapper for three teams over the past 12 years, including nine with the Philadelphia Eagles.

''I was one of those kids who liked magic and never put it down,'' Dorenbos said. ''It was something I could take with me wherever I went, something that helped me through an uncertain part of my life. I was alone, dealing with a lot of issues, but I could sit with myself and be happy and not worry about things that were happening outside of my space. It was therapeutic for me.''

Dorenbos was 12 years old when his dad, Alan Dorenbos, bludgeoned his wife to death with a bench grinder during an argument in the garage of the family home near Seattle.

Alan Dorenbos hid his wife Kathy's body in a sleeping bag in the trunk of his car and lied to Jon about her whereabouts. He repainted the garage in hopes of covering up the crime before turning himself in to police the next day.

Jon testified against his father and attended the trial every day with his sister, Kristina, and older brother, Randy. Alan Dorenbos was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 13 years, eight months in prison. He was released in 2005.

''I haven't talked to him since 1993,'' Jon said. ''I forgave him years ago. Forgiveness is from within. I genuinely wish anybody that done ill will in my life, I wish them the best. Too many people burden themselves with stuff that doesn't matter. What my dad does today doesn't affect my life, so why worry about it. I wish him all the best.''

Dorenbos spent a year in a foster home after losing his parents. He moved to Southern California to live with his aunt a year later and fell in love with magic during the transition when an older teenager introduced him to it.

''I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,'' Dorenbos said. ''It was fun for me. I learned a lot about myself. There were a lot of moves that were really hard and it took me two or three years to master them, and I learned that if you stick with something, you eventually will get it, but you have to get past that frustration part. It was something that stuck with me my whole life. I love performing and it's a great icebreaker.''

Card tricks are Dorenbos' go-to move but he has plenty more in his repertoire, including pickpocketing, swallowing needles and extracting them perfectly threaded, removing people's neckties without them noticing, and more.

Dorenbos has performed in front of celebrities, musicians and star athletes, including Joe Montana, Magic Johnson, Garth Brooks and Rascal Flatts. His biggest crowd was about 10,000 people at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

''That was really cool. It was rock star,'' Dorenbos said.

Dorenbos played football, baseball and basketball in high school, but didn't get a college scholarship so he went to a two-year school where he played linebacker for a winless team.

When a friend at UTEP told him the Miners needed a linebacker, Dorenbos put together a grainy tape of two other teammates and passed it off as his. It worked enough to get him in the door and he did the rest.

By his senior year, Dorenbos realized he might have a chance to make it in the NFL. He wowed scouts at the school's pro day, but didn't get drafted.

The Buffalo Bills signed him as a free agent in 2003 and he played every game that season and 13 in 2004 before suffering a knee injury. He went to Tennessee in 2005 and landed in Philadelphia in the middle of the 2006 season.

Dorenbos hasn't missed a game since joining the Eagles, playing in 134 straight games, including playoffs. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009.

His two seasons in Buffalo prepared him to snap in any weather conditions - no magic needed.

''When the Bills picked me up, I was really bad, but Danny Smith, the special teams coach, and Gregg Williams, the head coach, were very patient and stuck with me,'' Dorenbos said. ''If it wasn't for those two, I wouldn't be here. I'm glad I started there because I'll never get worse weather than that.''

The Eagles have only had three kickers since Dorenbos arrived: David Akers, Alex Henery and now Cody Parkey. Consistent snaps have made their job easier.

''I never have to worry about the snap and it's awesome,'' Parkey said. ''I just worry about kicking it through the uprights. He takes pride in what he does.''

Dorenbos is one of the most outgoing guys on the team. He's always smiling, easy to approach and fun to be around.

''He's incredible,'' Parkey said. ''He's so energetic. Stuff could be going on in his life and you would never know it. He could have one shirt and he would take it off his back and give it to you. He's that awesome. It's a blessing being around him. He's such a good guy.''

Dorenbos served as ''Commissioner'' of Philadelphia's popular Wing Bowl in 2013 and 2014. He became a licensed pilot last offseason. He enjoys every minute in the NFL because he knows it doesn't last long.

''The NFL isn't real; it's a short period of time,'' he said. ''My thing is to be who you are, don't become what you do. It's easy to become what you think an NFL star should be like. I'm not an NFL star by any means. When this time is done, and with how much I've enjoyed it and with everything I've tried to do to give back to the fans and the game, I'll have closure when this chapter is over.

''I found happiness at a young age. I went through intense therapy and it changed my life completely. It's given me perspective, it's given me appreciation, it's given me an understanding of who I am and what I stand for.''

At a time when the NFL is under intense scrutiny for player misconduct, the Magic Man gets it.


AP NFL websites: and


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: