Through the last two years, the Tucker (Ga.) Tigers have gone 28-1, with their only loss coming to state runner-up Starrs Mill, 20-19, in the 2010 semifinals. Defensive end Josh Dawson has been a big part of their success, with the 6-foot-4, 225-pound prospect making 94 tackles and 24 sacks for a defense that allowed less than 12 points per game in that span. Tucker head coach Franklin Stephens speaks highly of Dawson, about the person he is on the football field and in the locker room.
“Josh Dawson is a tremendous football player with a lot of schools recruiting his services, but he is probably a better individual than he is a football player,” Stephens said. “You cannot get enough of those types of individuals in your program because not only is he a joy to coach but he is also the type that you want the rest of your team to be exposed to, so really I cannot say enough positive things about him in terms of his character and his conduct.”
When Dawson first suited up, he was a lanky athlete who also spent a lot of time playing basketball. Stephens said what got Dawson to where he is now is the effort he put into his physical development, as well as the support he got from his parents.
“I remember telling him before his sophomore year that if he continued to put that effort in he had a chance to be a Division I prospect, because at that time he was almost 6-foot-3,” Stephens said. “So Dawson worked hard in the weight room and got stronger and faster. You could see the potential, but it all depended on how hard he worked toward maximizing that potential. You have to give his parents some credit as well because they have done a good job guiding him along and having high expectations for him, and I think he has met those expectations.”
The potential is there for Dawson to become even better at the next level.
“Dawson is a tall, rangy guy who could play tight end for a lot of teams, but his size and skill set make it easier to project him to defense,” Stephens said. “I think he has a chance to become a phenomenal college player because he is going to have better coaching and have access to better strength and conditioning. He is going to get bigger and his football IQ is going to increase, so wherever he ends up going I see him growing into a dominant presence on the football field.”
More than a dozen schools offered Dawson, and he committed to Vanderbilt last June. Interestingly enough, and as is often the case, that's when his recruitment intensified. According to Stephens, the interest seemed to come from Dawson himself.
“It was when he committed to Vanderbilt that he started to really look at Georgia,” Stephens said. “I was a little surprised because typically Tucker kids commit and then are done with it. However for some reason he became partial towards Georgia.”
Stephens thinks that another factor that helped the Bulldogs was that Dawson got to see what it might be like working with Rodney Garner, his recruiter of record for Georgia.
“It probably does not hurt that Bruce Adrine, the defensive coach here at Tucker, also played defensive line at Georgia,” Stephens said. “I know from a development perspective he has coached him on things he needs to know in order to become a successful SEC player.”
Dawson took an official visit to Georgia two weeks ago and one to Vanderbilt last week. Following those trips, Dawson declared his decision was “up in the air” between the Bulldogs and the Commodores. With the teams seemingly even heading into signing day, Stephens gave his standout player some last-minute words of advice for making the difficult choice.
“I just told him he is the one that has to play those four or five years at that respective institution, so this is one time in his life he gets to be selfish,” Stephens said. "He cannot do what other people want him to do; he has to do what is in the best interest for himself.”
Plans are for Dawson to sign at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with the school of his choice, with no announcement being made before then.