Dawson approaches career milestone

Posted Sep 8, 2012

Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles will be the 200th in kicker Phil Dawson’s 14-year career with the Browns.

Only four players in Cleveland Browns history have played in 200 or more games, but there will be another seat at that table come Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

When the Browns kick off the 2012 regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles, kicker Phil Dawson will become the fifth player to reach 200 games played in a Cleveland uniform.

“It’s very special,” Dawson said of the milestone. “I don’t know necessarily how to describe it yet. It feels like a normal work week, but I’m sure when Sunday rolls around, there will be a set of emotions I haven’t quite experienced before.

“My wife will be here with my three children. It will be my daughter’s (Sophiann) first game to ever come to. To get to share that with them and for it to be in Cleveland with the fans who have been so supportive of me and this team, it’s going to be a special accomplishment.”

Dawson has pretty good luck when his children see him play for the first time. When his son, Dru, saw his first NFL game, Dawson made a 51-yard field goal off the back support to tie the game at the end of regulation in Baltimore on Nov. 18, 2007. Originally ruled no good, a review of the kick revealed Dawson made the field goal.

He followed it up with a 33-yard game-winner in overtime.

“If we can have this game come down to a field goal chance, I like our chances,” Dawson said with a smile. “I grew up in a football home. My dad, Robert, was a college football player and as a boy, I admired him as a football player. To fast-forward to now and be here and have played long enough where my kids not only know their dad’s a football player but to actually get to see it, they get to experience it, they get to share it with me, that does my heart some good. We’ll take some time when it’s over on Sunday and celebrate together and hopefully, celebrate a Browns win.”

While he can look back on that Baltimore game, the game in which he kicked two field goals -- from 35 and 49 yards out, respectively -- in a blizzard against the Buffalo Bills in 2007 or the first two game-winning field goals of his career, which came against Pittsburgh, Dawson had his challenging moments on the field.

After having a draft party and not getting selected, Dawson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders. He was let go during training camp and later claimed by New England. Dawson then spent the 1998 season on the Patriots’ practice squad.

When Dawson made the decision to sign as a free agent with the Browns in 1999, he had to win the job by competing against Chris Boniol and Danny Kight.

“That first year, the first couple years, to be quite honest, were not enjoyable at all,” Dawson said. “I was just fighting to keep my head above water. That hard work did pay off though because it allowed me to find a spot, settle in and here we are, 15 years later.”

After playing in the NFL for 15 years, Dawson has gained a level of respect among his peers in the locker room and earlier this season, he was selected as a captain of the special teams for the fifth time in his career. Two-time pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs said Dawson’s selection as a captain was “not even a question.”

“I think Phil is the prime example of stability,” Cribbs said. “He’s like Joe Thomas, a guy you can place on a team, get instant production and never have to worry about him. I don’t even look at the field goals any more. I know that from wherever he’s kicking from, he’s ‘Old Faithful.’ He’s going to make it. It seems like he gets better with age. That’s a guy you want your kids to be like. A guy like Phil, he’s an inspiration to me.”

Being selected as a captain is an honor Dawson does not take lightly.

“I’m a fan who gets to stand on the sidelines and watch them,” Dawson said of his teammates. “For those guys to turn around and select me as a captain, that means more than all the other stuff. When you have that ‘C’ on your chest and you know that it was your teammates who selected you for that, you’re receiving that respect from them, that’s a good day.”

Dawson has inspired his teammates and Browns fans through his productivity on Sundays and the way he carries himself away from the game.

Since the start of his Browns career, Dawson has kicked 15 game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 276 field goals are the most in Browns history and he ranks second all-time with 1,155 points scored.

Dawson is 276 of 332 on field goal attempts and his 83.1 conversion percentage is the best in team history and tenth-best of all kickers who have made at least 100 field goals in their NFL careers.

When asked about the records and what would mean the most to him, Dawson was quick to respond with, “How about a Browns Super Bowl win?”

“Records, I’ve used them as goals, so they do have significance and the amount of respect I have for Mr. Groza’s all-time scoring record is tremendous,” Dawson said. “When I see Doug Dieken at 203 games and Lou Groza at 216 games and Clay Matthews at 232 games, those records mean something because of the men who hold them.

“If I get a chance to break all those, that would be tremendous, but at this point, I would trade all of that for a Browns Super Bowl win. I want to be here when this place wins and I want to celebrate down on Euclid Avenue with all those fans. That would be the most important thing for me.”

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