Clemson offensive line target Cooper Dawson of Hanahan, S.C., made the four-hour trip to Clemson for its All In Cookout on Friday night.
Dawson (6-5, 250) also visited Clemson in early June for the Dabo Swinney Camp, after which he received an offer from the Tigers. But the cookout visit allowed him to spend more time with the coaching staff and get a better look at what the program has to offer.
“It was awesome,” Dawson said. “Seeing all the players’ facilities, building relationships with the coaches and everything, it was a good experience.”
Dawson, who grew up a Clemson fan, was accompanied by his father and mother.
According to Dawson, his dad — a former Georgia Southern football player — was overcome with emotion and couldn’t hold back tears of joy while on the major recruiting visit with his son.
“It was his first time meeting the coaches,” Dawson said. “My mom had met coach (Tony) Elliott before, but it was the first time for my dad meeting them.
“If you were one of the coaches talking to him, you could tell that he was crying. He was tearing up during the whole cookout.”
The family was greeted by Elliott, Dawson’s area recruiter, and Swinney upon their arrival.
“Coach Elliott found me as soon as I walked in the door, and we talked,” Dawson said. “So we spent some time throughout the day… I ended up seeing coach Swinney, and he came up to me. I stuck my hand out for him to shake, and he walked right past me and said, ‘I ain’t here to see you,’ and went and gave my mom and hug. So, he’s good with the family.”
Dawson, who suffered a torn ACL during the Swinney Camp, said his mom wanted to try out the slide in the football complex before letting him go down it. Unfortunately, his mom was unable to nail the landing.
“I wanted to go down the slide, but my mom said it might not be best with my leg,” Dawson said. “So, she decided to go down it first, and her foot caught the bottom and she did a flip at the bottom.”
“The coaches saw it, and I apologized to the coaches,” he added, laughing. “Good thing I didn’t go down it.”
The cookout gave Dawson a chance to meet most of Clemson’s commitments in the 2019 class. He hung around the most with Pensacola (Fla.) offensive lineman Hunter Rayburn.
Dawson said the two hit it off, and he was impressed by Rayburn’s wiffle ball skills during the home run derby.
“One person I talked to and became friends with was Hunter Rayburn,” he said. “We took some pictures together, and he’s been talking to me, telling me to consider Clemson. He said it’s a good place with good people.
“Hunter’s awesome. I saw him at the home run derby, and he actually hit a ball in half. The wiffle ball broke straight in half. … He hit a couple home runs. He was probably the MVP of the home run derby.”
Dawson intends to take official visits in the fall, including one to Clemson, before making his commitment decision.
In addition to Clemson, he has offers from schools such as Wake Forest, Army, Navy, Central Florida, South Florida, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State and a couple of Ivy League schools. Vanderbilt and Tennessee are among other schools showing interest.
Most schools are recruiting Dawson as a defensive end, the position he has played in high school, while Clemson is among a few others pursuing him as an offensive lineman.
Dawson has made it clear that defensive end is his preferred position, and he will have to choose whether he wants to play on the offensive line at a place like Clemson or stick with D-end at a smaller school. That decision, though, did not matter to Dawson while he was at Clemson.
“When I got there, it wasn’t about being an offensive lineman,” he said. “It was just about me being part of the program. So, I found that pretty cool.”
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