On Wednesday night, Hanahan (S.C.)’s Cooper Dawson saw his dream come true when Clemson extended a scholarship offer.
Dawson (6-5, 250) was on campus for the first session of the Dabo Swinney Camp last week.
“It’s crazy,” Dawson told The Clemson Insider shortly after receiving the offer. “This has been my dream school since I was a little kid. I’ve been going to the games since I was young as well. It was a life-changing moment.”
Clemson offered Dawson as an offensive tackle. He was informed of the offer via a phone conversation with Dabo Swinney and Tony Elliott.
Dawson participated in the first day of camp workouts last Tuesday before suffering a knee injury while playing “Swinney Ball” that night.
“Coach Swinney told me that he liked my motor during the first day that I was at camp, and he enjoyed the fact that I stayed around after I was injured to learn as much as I could,” Dawson said. “He said he really liked my character and he wanted me to be a part of the team.
“We were the skins team, and even when I had the cast on my leg, I took my shirt off and threw it on the ground, and I was running around. He said he liked my intensity when I was out there with my team.”
Dawson underwent an MRI on the knee Wednesday and expects to get the results back Friday. He has been told it could be an ACL, MCL or meniscus injury.
“Coach Elliott came up and told me, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes,’ and that’s what I’ve been going by this past week or so, and just hoping for the best,” Dawson said.
The injury hasn’t stopped him from working out with his high school team.
“I’ve been just doing upper body, staying off my legs as much as possible,” he said. “But coach wants me to sweat, so I’ve been working out with a bullet-proof vest on. It’s pretty heavy.”
Dawson also camped at Clemson last summer and has attended several games in Death Valley as a fan.
Asked what stands out most to him about Clemson, Dawson pointed to its pregame tradition of rubbing Howard’s Rock and running down the hill, which caused his father — a former Georgia Southern football player — to tear up.
“I mean everybody knows about ‘the most exciting 25 seconds’,” he said. “I went with my dad for the first time… I’ve been with friends multiple times, but the first time I went with my dad, I looked at him and he was crying because it was so exhilarating to him. I think he missed college football, and that got him worked up.”
Clemson joins Colorado State, Wake Forest, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, UCF, Old Dominion, Army, Navy, Brown and Holy Cross on Dawson’s offer sheet.
App State and Coastal Carolina have offered him as an offensive lineman as well, while the rest of the schools are recruiting him as a defensive end or tight end.
Defensive end is Dawson’s positional preference, but he said he is open to playing on the O-line at the college level. He worked out at D-end during the first day of the Swinney Camp and had planned to compete with the O-linemen prior to sustaining the injury.
“Coaches have told me that I could be playing in the league (NFL) if I wanted to stay on the offensive side,” he said.
Dawson says offense or defense is a choice he’ll have to make.
“Coach Elliott told me that every door God opens for you, you don’t have to take it,” Dawson said. “He knows that I’m really passionate about defensive line. … He knows I love defensive line, so he told me he’s fine with whatever I choose, but he’d love to have me as a Tiger.”
Dawson said he had been planning to commit to a school toward the end of his upcoming senior season. But depending on what the MRI results reveal, if he’s ruled out for the season, he may take his official visits and then make an early decision.