Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Over the years fans have come to appreciate Phil Dawson and what he means to the Cleveland Browns.
And so have his teammates and fellow players around the league.
Not only was Dawson finally named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 14 years Wednesday night, but the reaction of his teammates after was priceless.
“It’s been a fun day getting to share it with them, the coaches and the equipment guys who are always quick to give me a hard time about stuff,” Dawson said. “But it’s been a really fun day just to see everybody excited. Obviously I couldn’t have done any of this without these guys and to share it with them makes it pretty neat.”
Thursday Dawson’s locker was decorated to celebrate the occasion.
A plastic wrap featuring a pair of pink flamingos adorned the column next to his locker, inflatable parrots flanked his locker, leis were hung around it and the word “Aloha” was draped across the front.
“It’s funny,” Dawson said. “It’s been one of those days. It seems like everywhere I go, someone’s got something and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who was named a first alternate for the AFC, admitted he had a little to do with the remodeled locker.
“I didn’t do all the handiwork,” Jackson said. “But I suggested it and it was something, a small gesture we could do just for other guys to show our appreciation for Phil. It was good. It looked nice.”
Jackson has had his own trials and tribulations to work through since being drafted by the Browns in 2006 – including 2 pectoral injuries – which is why he has an even greater appreciation for what Dawson has been through.
“We understand that this is a tough league. It’s hard enough to make the league, and what he’s gone through for how well he’s played throughout his career,” Jackson said. “He’s been through a lot of ups and a lot of downs with this organization, and for a guy like that to get that recognition from his peers, it’s a great honor and it goes to a great guy. I’m happy for him and it means the world to see a guy get appreciated for the work he’s done over these last 15 years.”
Dawson hasn’t had the season ending injuries that Jackson has fought his way back to Pro Bowl form from, but he’s dealt with a turbulent franchise from day 1.
Dawson was told in 1999 they’d start with him as the kicker and he’s not lost the job since. Now he’s able to laugh at remembering the parade of kickers that were brought in for auditions only to leave without taking his job.
All he has done is make the most field goals in franchise history (304), accumulate the best kicking percentage in team history (84.2%) and 7th in NFL history, rise to 2nd in most points scored by a Browns player (1,267 trailing only Lou Groza’s 1,349) and is 3rd in regular season games played (214) behind Clay Matthews (232) and Groza (216).
“He’s one of the outstanding kickers and he does it – we would all agree – in a climate at times that’s less than ideal for kickers,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s kicked at a high level for a very long time. I’m extremely thrilled that he was recognized by his peers, the coaches and the fans.”
Despite his loyalty and success, Dawson still has not gotten the respect of a proper contract extension from any of the many regimes to roll through town which left with bags of cash to go away. He has had plenty of opportunities to justifiably rip the franchise he’s rewriting the record books for, for not taking care of him, but he continues to take the high road.
“There will be a time and place for all of that,” Dawson said of his impending free agency. “I think everything’s going to get sorted out before I have to make any kind of decision so I’m not worried about the process or what’s going to happen. I’m just going to try and win a game this week and go home enjoy things, get back to work and when it’s the time to sit down and talk about what’s next we’ll do that.”
A native of Texas, where they do everything bigger and better, Dawson’s low key, blue collar approach to his job on and off the field has made him a perfect fit for Cleveland and vice versa.
But he plans to enjoy his long overdue vacation.
“You know the Corona commercial? That’s me,” Dawson said. “I sit on a chair and I don’t do anything. Just sit. I might snorkel a little bit, we’ll see.
“It’s fun to be a rookie all over again. You know I’ll be carrying Joe Thomas’ bags and asking [questions], last one on the bus asking all the questions. It’s fun to have been around for so long and get to do something for the first time.”
Thomas, who was named to his 6th Pro Bowl in as many seasons with the Browns, is thrilled that he’ll be able to share the week with Dawson.
“It’s awesome,” Thomas said. “He’s a guy that’s been passed over several times because we haven’t been making playoff appearances and he’s definitely been deserving for several years. For him to finally get it this year is pretty special.
“I’m really excited about showing him the ropes.”
After the announcement, Dawson’s phone blew up with Tweets, text messages, and voice mails to rib and congratulate him.
“I’m, still returning text messages and voice mails,” Dawson said. “I think when the selection show was over I had 100 text messages on my phone. That was pretty overwhelming to think that that many people really cared and I’m going to make sure I get back to each and every one of them personally and thank them. My friends in Austin, they’re ready to get me home and that’s going to be great. It’s been a great day and great evening [Wednesday] night. It’s everything I hoped it would be.”
And it’s why many fans and players hope that the ‘Aloha’ that was hung from his locker on Thursday doesn’t mean goodbye after Sunday.