Vandergrift native lands job as D-II college football coach
Vandergrift native Patrick Dawson attempted to break up a fight between opposing linemen during a spring football practice in 2011 at Concord University and emerged with a broken index finger and bloody lip.
“I think I still thought I was a player,” Dawson said.
Dawson, a 26-year-old former offensive lineman at Greensburg Central Catholic and Toledo, is big enough to hold his own against college linemen most of the time, but he's thrilled to be teaching the game now instead of playing it.
He joined the Division II school's coaching staff as a graduate assistant in early 2011 and was hired as the Mountain Lions' defensive line coach this summer.
Last fall, Dawson helped Concord to its first conference title since 1990 and first trip to the NCAA playoffs.
“I feel very fortunate things have worked out the way they did, to be as young as I am and be full-time on a championship team,” Dawson said. “Some of the guys on the defensive line are only three or four years younger than me.”
Dawson graduated with a degree in sports management and served as an assistant coach at GCC in 2009, when the Class AA Centurions captured their first WPIAL crown. Following the 2010 season, he met with Concord assistant coach Garin Justice during a recruiting visit to GCC.
“He came to recruit some of our offensive linemen, and we met at the school and sat down and spoke,” Dawson said. “I told him I wanted to coach at the college level someday. A week or so later, he was promoted to head coach, and he called me a few days later.”
Dawson arrived at Concord, located in southern West Virginia, as a grad assistant in early 2011. When defensive line coach Will King left for Delaware State just before spring practice, Dawson took over.
“I think they gave me a little more leeway than the average GA because I had my own position,” Dawson said. “I think the players rallied behind me because I was a younger guy. We clicked as spring went on.”
After the 2011 campaign, Dawson was promoted to a full-time position. He's also pursuing a master's degree. Since last year, Dawson has learned many coaching lessons, including staying out of the middle of scrums.
“I'll just blow the whistle this time,” he said.
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-224-2696.