Gold Jacket participated in a Heart of a Hall of Famer program last March at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was asked by a student during the session who is hero is and why. With little hesitation, Dawson responded that his hero was his mother and grandmother.
Dawson and his three brothers didn’t live the ideal childhood. They were raised by their mom, who worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. The former Pittsburgh Steelers center grew up with an absentee father who was an alcoholic, therefore his mother had to support four kids practically by herself.
“My mom - she was something else,” explained an emotional Dawson. “For her to raise four boys under some of the adverse circumstances she had to deal with my father, it was tough.”
Dawson watched his mother overcome adversity and learned how to handle tough situations. He also had to grow up faster than most kids his age in order to protect his family. Dawson would search for his father around town to make sure he wasn’t getting into trouble, help get him to AA meetings, take him to the hospital on occasion and take care of him during his recovery.
These situations and lessons helped Dawson become the Hall of Famer he is today.
“It’s not easy. You learn a lot of lessons from adversity. You can either accept it or let it affect you in a negative way, which you can. I think you have to rise above it,” said Dawson.
His family is now closer than ever. His dad received the help he needed and was eventually able to support Dermontti and attend his games. In fact, after the Heart of a Hall of Famer program Dawson flew to Kentucky to spend some quality time with them.
Dawson was a second-round draft pick by the Steelers in 1988. A knee injury interrupted his rookie season, but despite the injury, he managed to start five of eight games that year at guard. The following year he replaced future Hall of Famer Mike Webster as the Pittsburgh’s starting center. He remained an anchor of the Steelers’ front line for the remainder of his 13-season NFL career. In all, Dawson played in 184 regular season games and his 170 consecutive games played ranks second in club history. Named a center on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, Dawson started in three AFC championship games and was Pittsburgh’s starting center in Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys. Back to news