Duke Dawson ready to be the face of the Gators defense

University of Florida cornerback Duke Dawson celebrates with fans after the Florida Gators win over Georgia / Gator Country photo by David Bowie Duke Dawson takes a look around the locker room just minutes before his fourth and final spring football camp with the Florida Gators. He’s taking it all in because a few short months ago he didn’t think he’d be here.

Dawson was the first player to commit to the Gators in 2014 and he enrolled early that spring semester. He came in with Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson soon followed. The three of them helped continue the “DBU” tradition at Florida and, if they were all being honest, would say they all expected to play three years at UF before heading for the NFL. Tabor and Wilson made that move after the season.

“Coming in, I knew Teez was a top recruit, Quincy was a top recruit, we all were top recruits but when you come in with guys like that you have to compete everyday. There’s no day that you can really take off,” Dawson told Gator Country in an exclusive interview. “With us three, we always pushed each other harder to do this or do that. We see differences in each other, things that we needed to work on with each other. It was just that brotherhood that we had and that really played a huge part in what we had going on here.”

Making a decision to leave school early can’t be based on what your teammates and friends do. It’s a personal decision that a player must make with their family and for themselves. With that being said, Dawson came into his junior season knowing that it was a strong possibility for him.

Dawson burst onto the scene in his first career game with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown. He played in 11 games as a freshman during the 2014 season but the coaching staff bounced him back and forth between corner, nickel and safety. He ultimately settled in at safety but when Will Muschamp was fired, Jim McElwain and his coaching staff didn’t view Dawson as a safety. He returned to nickelback but was stuck behind Brian Poole. Dawson played in every game but in a limited role. When Poole graduated he knew the 2016 season would be his opportunity to prove himself.

That started in the spring game last year. Dawson intercepted Feleipe Franks and returned it for a touchdown. He stepped into the starting role at nickel and led the team with seven passes broken up. He intercepted one pass that he returned for a touchdown. All-in-all it was Dawson’s most productive season in Orange and Blue.

“The only bad part of the season I had was against Tennessee, everything else was fine for me,” he said of his junior season. “I mean everyone is going to have those games. I didn’t let that hinder me or put me down in a hole. I just pushed forward and kept a level head.”

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