Where Are You Now? Mike Dawson
Editors Note: Where Have You Gone is a ten-week series featuring notable local athletes of yesteryear. We take a look back at their playing days, as well as a glimpse of where they landed after their playing days ended.
Not many high school athletes earn 12 letters in 4 sports. Mike Dawson (Magnolia High School) was that standout athlete, lettering in football (76-78), basketball (76-78), baseball (75-78), and track (77-78). Mike did not only letter in them, he excelled in every sport. The 1978 Blue Eagles graduate was a gifted, hard nosed athlete that gave 100 percent on every play.
Dawson’s Varsity Assistant football coach, Randy Rutherford said, “He was one of the hardest hitters I have ever seen on the gridiron. I was afraid that I would accidentally get in his way”, chuckled Rutherford.
From a young age playing Little League and Grasshopper basketball, he was noticed by many people who commented they could not wait till he was a high school player. He did not disappoint them by being one of the best to wear the Old Blue and Gold! I had the privilege growing up with “Daws”, playing against and with him throughout the years. He was the star but was unselfish and a team player who enjoyed getting everyone involved. We had many good coaches in our Little League playing days including Mike’s father, the late Ronald “Clutch”Dawson who not only taught us the game but about life too.
Mike, along with his siblings, Kim, and Pat, are the children of Carole and the late Ron Dawson. It was football, however, which brought Dawson, the rugged 6ft 2in., 195-pounder the most acclaim. Following his senior grid season in 1978, Dawson was selected as the W.Va. All-Class Player of the Year by the Morgantown Touchdown Club, while finishing as runner-up for the Kennedy Award. That same season, he was named captain of the all-W.Va. Class AA team as a defensive back after pilfering seven passes. He was also the captain of the All-Valley and All-OVAC teams. Dawson rushed for 833 yards on just 112 carries in nine games as a senior for Coach Dave Cisar. He was named second-team All-State quarterback as a junior.
For his career, Dawson accounted for more than 3,000 all-purpose yards and totaled 152 points despite missing four games with injuries.
The talented Blue Eagle was also dominant in baseball. He was a four-year starter, seeing action at both catcher and shortstop. Dawson earned All-West Virginia laurels his junior and senior seasons after helping lead the Eagles to the state tournament both years. He was a two-time all-OVAC and All-Valley honoree, serving as captain of the latter as a senior.
Spring proved quite busy for Dawson. When not playing baseball, he was a valuable contributor to the Blue Eagles’ track team. Despite little practice time, he was still able to sparkle in the West Virginia Class A state track meet. As a junior, he was runner-up in both the 100-yard dash and long jump, the latter on the strength of a leap better than 21 feet. He also won the West Virginia AAU 100-yard dash in 1977.
Dawson was also a three-year starter in basketball. Among his many hoop highlights was a 36-point outburst against Wheeling Park.
Mike’s High School Honors were All-State Football, All-State Baseball, OVAC All-Star basketball, Morgantown TD Club Player of Year, runner-up Kennedy Award, and in 1977 state runner-up (track) in the 100 and long jump.
Mike Dawson’s New Martinsville family home was the site of in-house visits by Woody Hayes, he was also contacted by Joe Paterno, as well as several calls from Barry Switzer, before he chose to attend West Virginia University.
Dawson had the brains, the brawn, and the jets to become a big-time college safety, but a lack of linebacker depth early in his WVU career forced a switch to a position he was ill-suited to play and where he eventually damaged his knee.
As a sophomore, he earned a starting spot as a linebacker, but he injured his knee while blocking a punt against Penn State. Dawson ended as a two-year Mountaineer grid letterman.
Mentioned by more than one knowledgeable football onlooker, it was said that Dawson had “NFL” written all over him before his position switch and subsequent knee injury.
After Mike’s career at WVU was over he came back to help Coach Cisar as an assistant coach in 1983. He was then named Head Coach at Hundred High School (1984-86) and during his time with the Hornets, they finished with a three-year record of 16-14.
Dawson returned to the WVU football team in 1987-88 as a graduate assistant coach. In 1989 he accepted a position as Defensive Line Coach at Western Kentucky University.
He went back to coaching high school football when hired for the Head Coach job at Macon County High School in Lafayette, TN in 1990-1992.
Dawson was then hired as an assistant coach at White House High School in Tennessee from 1993-2010 where he was part of the 1997 State Championship team.
Dawson was inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame in 2009. Mike moved back to WV in 2011, moving to Harrisville and becoming the Head Coach of the Ritchie County Rebels. He led the Rebels to three playoff appearances in his first three years at Ritchie, and the only playoff victory in history of the county in 2013.
Before Dawson took over the Rebels, the team combined for 15 wins in 10 previous seasons. Dawson led the school to three straight winning seasons and playoff appearances from 2011-13. He left the school with a 24-20 mark. He resigned after the 2014 season at Ritchie County.
Dawson joined the Parkersburg Big Reds staff as a Defensive Coordinator in 2015 but left the staff in August 2017 citing philosophical differences. He is employed by Parkersburg High School as a Driver’s Education teacher.
He is the father of two daughters, Rachel Ramey and Megan Dawson, and grandfather to four-year old Delila Kate Ramey. Mike resides in Vienna, WV. While chatting about the past, he said “Yes, we sure did have some great times. Great childhood, great community, competitive sports but not cut-throat. “Those were the days!”
Mike said, “It’s always good to take a trip down memory lane, but it was a long time ago. All that really matters are the relationships and memories.”
Talking with Mike reminded me about the good old days growing up in our small town of New Martinsville and took me back to the great times we had in our early years. He has not changed except for growing older, and it was wonderful catching up with an old friend.
Mike said, “I’m so thankful for my time at Magnolia High School, the coaches, teachers, friends, and parents. Growing up in the valley made me the person I am today, and I always appreciated the community support. I have been so blessed.”
Dawson’s hobbies now include hunting, fishing, and golfing. He makes trips back to New Martinsville to visit his mother as often as he can.
Coach Dave Cisar said, “Mike Dawson, in my 50 plus years of coaching, was the greatest high school player I have ever seen and had the privilege to coach. He was a 4.0 student and played all four sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track) and was truly exceptional at all of them. He was a man amongst boys on the playing field and I was hard on him only because I loved Mike like my son. He could play every facet of the game in football and excelled at all of them, whether it be the kickoff and punt teams, quarterback, running back or safety. I genuinely believe in my heart that if not for the knee injury at WVU, he would have been a safety in the NFL. He had speed, toughness, and size to have been a great safety in the National Football League.”
Coach went on to say, “Mike was a great catcher in baseball that could have gone on to play Division I baseball and possibly the Big Leagues. He had a terrific arm and had great range from his shortstop position when I played him there.”
Cisar said, “I got phone calls nightly from Barry Switzer, met Jerry Sandusky, the great Woody Hayes, and Don Nehlen and staff from WVU on several occasions in the recruiting process of Mike. Let me reiterate, I really love Mike, who came from an exceptionally good family that are truly the best.”