BY Drew Budd
Hampton Bays News Staff
Getting enshrined into any type of hall of fame is the pinnacle for any athlete. Todd Dawson, a 1989 graduate of Hampton Bays High School, reached his pinnacle when he was inducted to the Stonehill College Athletic Hall of Fame at the school's 24th annual induction ceremony on October 12.
Out of the now 120 athletes in the Stonehill Hall of Fame, Dawson was the first offensive lineman to be inducted and is considered one of the best, if not the greatest, lineman Stonehill has ever produced. He was a three-time All-East Coast Football Conference selection and served as team captain his senior year.
Dawson was also key to a Stonehill offense that posted 2,995 yards during his final season in 1992, en route to a 6-2-1 record. He led an offensive line that allowed just 12 sacks and the team's 50 touchdowns scored in '92 still rank fourth in program history.
Stonehill went 19-12-2 during Dawson's four years on the team and won the ECFC Championship his junior (1991) season. Dawson also earned All-Conference honors during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Dawson, who graduated from Stonehill in 1993, said that getting inducted into his college hall of fame was an honor and a privilege, but he gave a lot of credit for his success to his time spent at Hampton Bays with coaches Mike Diveris and Bill Steigerwald.
"Because of the both of them, I was able to understand what it takes to play football at the college level," he said.
Dawson grew up playing and loving the sport of baseball, but it was Diveris, he said, who made him realize he was a football player. Even though Dawson was a devout baseball player—he played for Hampton Bays and on travel teams—he eventually quit the sport he loved so much to focus all of his efforts on football and, once he did that, football became his passion.
It wasn't too soon after he quit baseball that Dawson began proper weight training and ran track in the spring, since Diveris and Steigerwald also coached that team.
"I was just lucky," Dawson said of being coached by both Diveris and Steigerwald. "We were doing [workouts] back then that people now think is in fashion to do."
The players lifted big tires, he said, and pulled sleds that were tied to ropes. Since Diveris was also a local lifeguard, he was always in great shape, according to Dawson. Then Diveris's brother, John, who played football at Hofstra in the late 1970s, would come down to practice and teach even more workout drills to the players. And former Hampton Bays alum Pat Crowley, who played football at the University of North Carolina in the in the 1980s, also came down and helped instill tough, college-football type workouts. All of which eventually helped Dawson at Stonehill.
"I was prepared literally from the time I started to the time I finished at Stonehill," he said.
Dawson wound up starting at Hampton Bays his sophomore year and became an All-County player his junior and seniors years. In 1988, the Baymen won their conference and defeated cross-town rival Southampton, which Dawson said was like the Super Bowl each time the two teams met. "Whoever won that game typically went on to the playoffs," he said.
Dawson explained that since there were no particular statistics for offensive lineman, at least back when he played, his induction into Stonehill's hall came strictly from word of mouth. Dawson's head coach at Stonehill, David Swanton, nominated him to be inducted. And former teammate Brian Driscoll was on the Hall of Fame committee for the first time this year and he thought Dawson was a "top candidate" to be inducted.
Driscoll was two years ahead of Dawson by the time he came to Stonehill. He helped Dawson on his recruiting visit. From day one, he said, he could tell Dawson was going to be a good player and teammate.
"Offensive line coaches grade their lineman and he continually scored at the top," Driscoll said. "He was a very reliable player, very accountable. And he took practice very serious."
Driscoll was a linebacker when he played, and being that Dawson was an offensive lineman, the two squared off in practice against one another for the two years they were teammates. Dawson said Driscoll made him nervous because of his size, but that prepared him even more for upcoming opponents.
"From my perspective, he was easy," to induct into the Hall of Fame, Driscoll said. "He was the best lineman. His strength and agility made him tough to deal with. You couldn't get around him and it was very tough to get through him. He would very rarely get yelled at for missing an assignment."
After stops in Boston, California and Seattle, Dawson now resides in Young Harris, Georgia, which runs along the Tennessee/Georgia state-line. His wife, Andrea, is the mayor of the town where they live, while he is a criminal investigator for the state and covers four counties in northern Georgia.
Dawson loves to kayak in the local rivers near his home and he also enjoys playing inline hockey in his spare time. His mother, Mickey Dawson-Bell, who still resides in Hampton Bays, jokes that every activity he does requires a helmet. Dawson, though, after being a menacing lineman for years, truly enjoys his much more relaxed lifestyle.
"It's real peaceful," he said. "It's awesome."