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UK football to honor Dermontti Dawson on Homecoming

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team will honor recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and UK football legend Dermontti Dawson on Saturday, Oct. 20 with Dermontti Dawson Day at Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats will battle Southeastern Conference foe Georgia in the game with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET. The game also will serve as UK’s annual Homecoming.

Dawson, who played at Kentucky from 1984-87, will be on hand for the game, including signing autographs in the Wildcat Refuge two hours before kickoff. Dawson will be honored on the field during the game, while the first 10,000 fans in the stadium will receive a Dermontti Dawson rally towel.

Below is a segment of a story from UK assistant director of media relations for new/social media Guy Ramsey about Dawson’s Hall of Fame career:

Dawson spent his entire professional career playing a position where, by and large, anonymity was the goal. For NFL centers, attention typically comes after a botched snap or a missed block, not the six All-Pro selections Dawson earned during his 13 seasons as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

More than a decade removed from his retirement in 2000, Dawson moved into the spotlight he tried to avoid as a player, receiving arguably the highest level of recognition a football player can attain: enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Lexington native and UK great was part of a six-member class of inductees in Canton, Ohio.
Dawson joined George Blanda as the second Wildcat in the Hall of Fame.

After being selected in the second round out of UK, Dawson spent his first season in Pittsburgh as a backup, but was being groomed as the replacement for Mike Webster while playing guard, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame himself in 1997.

Replacing a legend is never easy, but Dawson did just that beginning in 1989 when he assumed the starting center role following Webster's departure. Dawson wasted no time making his mark, not only with the Steelers, but on the way his position was played.

Nicknamed "Dirt" for pounding opponents into the ground, Dawson is known as the first center in
NFL history to regularly pull, a responsibility normally left to more nimble guards. He frequently would leave his spot at the line of scrimmage to block for a Steeler running back on the perimeter. Within three years of his move to center, Dawson was named to the first of his seven Pro Bowls. He also played 170 consecutive games at one point, the second-longest streak in Steelers history.

With Dawson anchoring the offense, the Steelers were among the best rushing teams in football. During his 13-year career, Pittsburgh led the NFL in rushing twice and ran for over 2,000 yards as a team eight times. The Steelers also had at least 11 rushing touchdowns in all but two of Dawson's seasons.

The 6-foot-2, 288 pounder was small by current league standards, but made up for whatever deficit he faced in size with power and quickness that made him a track and field star at Bryan Station High School. In fact, Dawson was exclusively a track and field athlete and wrestler before then-Bryan Station football coach Steve Parker recruited him to play football.

Now UK Associate Dean for Academic and Student Services, Parker made arrangements to attend the induction ceremony within days of Dawson's election in early February, but Dawson wanted his first football coach to be more involved. In mid-February, Dawson asked Parker to serve as his official presenter, meaning two men with close ties to both UK and Lexington were on the stage in front of the national audience.

"When he asked me, it was so emotional," Parker said. "I couldn't speak for a while. He could have asked a thousand other people and he asked me."

During the two seasons he spent playing for Parker, Dawson had no idea what his future would hold. He eventually elected to attend hometown UK because of the opportunity to participate in both football and track. Playing for then-UK head coach Jerry Claiborne, it didn't take long for Dawson to figure out the gridiron was where he belonged. He played alongside current UK head coach Joker Phillips when the Wildcats went 9-3 and won the Hall of Fame Bowl.

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