Every little boy who suits up with pads, a jersey and cleats, taking to the field to play football, shares a dream of one day being on a bigger stage. Perhaps that stage is a high school football field on any given Friday night with cheerleaders and a marching band at half-time, or a college stadium on Saturdays with proud parents in the stands and cheers from loyal fans. For Grant Dawson, his dreams started like any other little boy and came to a complete circle playing for Wake Forest University in the 2017 Belk Bowl.
Growing up in Winston-Salem, NC, Grant remembers always loving football and playing at an early age with the Forsyth Broncos, in the Pop Warner program. “I fell in love with football early on and began playing around age 8. I continued to play at Reagan High School in the linebacker position, and achieved All Conference and All Northwest Region my junior and senior years, finishing our season at 8-3. As a lifelong Wake Forest University fan, my dream was to play for Wake; I wanted to go where I would be given a shot to prove myself,” recalled Grant. However, the scholarships that came Grant’s way were to smaller Division II schools, not Division I or Division I-AA. After weighing his options and having several talks with his parents, Harry and Lisa Dawson, Grant, with his parents’ full support, decided to continue to chase his dreams where his heart was…at WFU.
“If I was going to chase my dreams, I figured I would go all out and go all the way to play at Wake. I was very blessed that my parents, more than anything, wanted me to go for my dreams and supported and encouraged me to go to Wake. They said whatever I wanted to do they were behind me,” Grant said. With the decision made, Grant was a walk-on red shirt freshman at WFU, which came with its own challenges.
“To take the step from high school to college is a challenge in itself, but to have the added pressure of being a walk-on red shirt was something that gave me a sense of urgency. I felt like I had a lot to prove to myself and my coaches that I deserved to be here,” commented Grant. In the spring following his red shirt freshman year, WFU Coach Dave Clawson shared with Grant the requirements he would have to meet to become a scholarship player for the Deacons before the 2014 season.
“Coach Clawson originally told me what I needed to do before the season. I was in rotation and I was contributing on special teams and so I was hopeful he’d put me on. I kept my head down, stayed focused and accomplished all Coach Clawson told me I needed to do,” Grant said. After the season, Grant was called to Coach Clawson’s office for a meeting; no fanfare or production, just another part of Grant’s dream to come true…a scholarship.
Hearing the words, ‘Congratulations, you earned it,’ hit Grant harder than he thought it would.
“Even if I had hoped or anticipated getting a scholarship, I was at a loss for words. It really was a dream come true,” stated Grant. His five years at WFU came to a fitting end when, on his 23rd birthday, as a team captain and linebacker, the Deacons took the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC to play in the 2017 Belk Bowl against Texas A&M, with a win of 55-52. It was a game for not only Wake’s history books, but one that Grant is still trying to wrap his mind around.