On the outside there was pride, happiness and relief on the face of Detroit Cass Tech offensive lineman David Dawson. On Friday night, as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game, the ESPN 150 offensive lineman accepted his invitation to the game in January. To the outside world, everything was perfect.
But on the inside there was sorrow. And that, he would show to no one on this day. His father wouldn't have wanted him to be anything but proud.
Dawson lost his father in a terrible roadside accident in April when David Sr. was assisting a driver on Michigan's Interstate 96 and was fatally struck by an oncoming vehicle. The jersey ceremony for the younger Dawson was held on what would have been David Sr.'s birthday, a sign that his father is still in his life.
"I called [my dad] when I committed to Michigan, and he said he was proud of me and if this was what I wanted then he was definitely behind me," he said. "I got invited [to the Under Armour All-America Game] after he passed, so he didn't know I got it. I'm going to play my hardest, though. It's for him, for myself, my family and for Cass Tech."
It means a lot to David Jr. that the dates coincide, and he knows he has a lot to live up to. He's not only playing for his family, but his Cass Tech team as well. He's continuing what is starting to be a tradition at Cass of having All-Americans on the roster year after year.
From former Cass Tech standout Joseph Barksdale to current Michigan players Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone, they were all part of All-America games past. Dawson feels pride in knowing he is carrying the torch for his team by being named an All-American.
"It's big, especially doing it with top-rated guys playing in the game. I'm just trying to help Cass keep that tradition," he said. "We always tell the younger guys to go to all the camps so they can continue this on."
He is looking forward to spending time at Disney World and relaxing in Florida, and is even hoping for a chance to perform in the Big Man Challenge competition at the Under Armour All-America Combine before the game, which is held at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.
Dawson will have some familiar faces with him on the roster, as six other Michigan commitments have been selected to the Under Armour Game, with three total offensive linemen including Dawson. The opportunity to play together before college and spend some time together is something Dawson said he believes will help them later on in their careers.
"It will definitely help, especially if we're all on the same team. It's going to help us build chemistry on the line," he said. "Patrick Kugler (Wexford, Pa./North Allegheny) and Logan Tuley-Tillman (Peoria, Ill./Manual) are going to be down there, so that's enough to build some chemistry. We'll hopefully be able to learn to block for [Michigan quarterback commit] Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle)."
With all the Michigan commitments on hand it's safe to say the group will be doing some recruiting for the Wolverines as well. One of Michigan's top targets, receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee), is also on the roster for the prestigious event.
"Hopefully by then [Treadwell] will have made his decision. We'll recruit him if he hasn't, though," he said. "I heard that Michigan is his favorite, but it's a long process."
A long process is right, and it's been a long journey for Dawson to reach this point. The No. 1-ranked guard in the country has worked hard to achieve this success and has been through more than most teenagers. While he accepted the jersey without his father by his side, Dawson can be sure that his father is proud of him once again.