Life as an NFL kicker is a position that ordinarily takes the back seat to the Quarterback, Receivers or even a Running back. However, it's as competitive a position as any of the others on the field. When Phil Dawson, kicker for the Cleveland Browns, comes on to the field, he'll be the first to tell you that football is just a way to make a living. That should not be misconstrued as some uninspired approach to his performance.
Dawson is as serious and competitive a player as there is. However this versatile athlete definitely has the proper perspective on just what and who is important in his life.
"My faith will always come first before anything. The thing that comes next is my family and then finally my football career. They are always in that order. The Bible says to "Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all of its righteousness and all will be given unto you." I have told my wife that ever since I have known her. If God is the center of our lives then everything else will take care of itself at work. That brings a unique perspective to things. "
Dawson played high school football at Lake Highlands, a Class 5a powerhouse program near Dallas, Texas in the early 90's. Dawson not only kicked field goals in his senior year but he was also a starting tackle at 5'11'' 185 lbs, working against lineman much bigger than himself.
"I have experience playing other positions," said Dawson. "I know what it is like to play the field. Being a 185 lb. lineman against 280 lb. Linemen is tough. It makes kicking a 50 - yard field goal seem easy. That's my take on the game and I think that it has paid off for me."
Dawson was recruited to play college football for the Texas Longhorns where his career continued to flourish. Among his honors, going into his senior season, was being named to the Playboy all American team which is considered by some as a highly prestigious honor. After a lot of prayer and consideration, Phil turned down the award because it did not give glory to God.
"I had been praying for a an opportunity to witness to my teammates and show them who Jesus was. When I decided to not take the honor, everybody on the team at some point wanted to find out why. It was a great chance to share with them."
Phil found out about Jesus at an early age by going to church and Sunday school on a regular basis. His mother and Father were very good role models that lived out their faith on a daily basis.
It wasn't until Dawson left home for college and was on his own that the Lord made his intentions known for his life.
"It's a blessing to grow up in a Christian home but there is a point where you begin to feel like you are just going through the motions. That is exactly where I found myself. I went for a year trying to do things my own way and I soon found out that it was not as easy as it looked." Said Dawson. "When times got tough, I learned what things I needed in life and strove to live out the life that I learned about. The Lord led me the whole way."
"Once I made that choice I feel that I had a greater confidence in myself and my abilities. I don't believe that the Lord is concerned with how many field goals that I make in a season. I think that he is more concerned with who I am along the way. When you allow God to lead, guide and direct you, you are going to feel more confident about your abilities and that will result in a better performance."
Dawson Does Take His Job Seriously.
"Kicking footballs in the NFL is a gift that God has given me and I am going to do the best that I can and be who I am supposed to be along the way."
Dawson's competitive edge comes from his strong faith in Jesus and the Bible.
"The book of Colossians says that "whatever you do, work with all of your heart as unto the Lord and not for man." Right now I am an NFL football player and God has given me the opportunity to be here. It is my job to take that opportunity, work extremely hard and be the best that I can be at it. That's my motivation and that is what drives me. Hopefully, I can be an effective witness for Him through it."
Nothing ever stays the same, especially, if you play in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns are a perfect example. The 2001 season brings high hopes for the year as newly hired Head Coach Butch Davis takes control of the team. His philosophy and knowledge has brought a whole new feeling to the team and it can be seen everywhere you go. There is a sign that hangs in the field house at the training camp in Berea that says, "Practice like Champions!" It is a simple sign hung where everybody can see it and it plants an image of greatness in the person's mind who is reading it. Confidence instilled in a team like the Browns, can take you very far. That is exactly the type of thing that Davis brings to this organization.
That confidence has also found it's way to the kicking team. Butch Davis has commented to the Media that an improved Dawson has increased the distance of his kicks and increased leg strength in order to make the longer kicks.
"The last couple of seasons have been hard because I know what I can do and at times, I have shown that, but I don't feel that I have shown it as much as would've liked to. It has been a struggle to get to that point where I can go out there and have the confidence to do the things that I know I can do," said Dawson. "Now I am showing that I can kick the ball and it is always nice when other people notice. I plan to continue to work. There is still a lot of room for improvement in the kicking game."
Dawson feels that his fellow teammates are a great strength to each other and says that he enjoys sharing time with some of the other believers on the team like Courtney Brown and Lenoy Jones during team led Bible Studies.
Phil and his wife Shannon have also been blessed with a newborn baby boy, Caleb Dru Dawson this past off season and says that he can hardly wait to get home at the end of the day and see the new things that he does every day.
Dawson's life reflects the goodness and faithfulness of God and by God's grace we'll see him kicking around Cleveland for a long time to come.