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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Dawson to receive 2023 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award

 














12.05.2022 | Football

Former Texas All-American kicker Phil Dawson has been selected as a recipient of the award that recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their collegiate careers.

INDIANAPOLIS – Former Texas All-American kicker Phil Dawson has been selected as a recipient of the 2023 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, the NCAA announced on Monday.

The Silver Anniversary Award annually recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers. Representatives of NCAA member schools and conferences, along with a panel of former student-athletes, select each year's recipients. Six former college athletes will receive the award, which will be presented at the Honors Celebration ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 11, during the NCAA Convention in San Antonio.

"This is a really special honor for me and my family," Dawson said. "Representing The University of Texas 25 years ago proved to be the great joy of my football playing life. Being recognized by the NCAA with the prestigious Silver Anniversary Award produces a deep sense of appreciation and humility as I consider all those great Longhorns of old that I continue to have the opportunity to represent. I have so many great memories, will always bleed orange, and this is a recognition I'm honored and privileged to accept as a Longhorn for life."

"When you talk about an exceptional student, outstanding athlete and tremendous representative of your athletic department, Phil Dawson truly epitomizes that," said Hall of Fame Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds, who was the UT Men's AD from 1981-2013 and during Dawson's time on the Forty Acres.

"He's one of the best kickers in Longhorn history — or at any college for that matter — who went on to a long and illustrious career in the NFL. Coupled with that, he was highly successful in the classroom, a team leader and captain and a very active member in the community. He's continued all of that in his life after college, has a wonderful family, and is an extraordinary person who now is sharing all of his wisdom and knowledge as a high school coach himself. We couldn't be prouder of him and are so thrilled that he's receiving one of the NCAA's top honors as a Silver Anniversary Award recipient."

A member of the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor Class of 2012, Dawson was a four-year starter at Texas from 1994-97. He was a two-time All-American, who earned first-team honors as a junior in 1996, and honorable mention as a sophomore in 1995, while also twice being named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker.

A 1997 team captain, Dawson garnered all-conference recognition all four years at Texas, including first-team honors in the Big 12 in 1996, and in the Southwest Conference in 1994. In that span, he helped lead the Longhorns to three conference titles, including the first-ever Big 12 Championship in 1996 and the final SWC Championship in 1995.

Dawson finished his collegiate career with 13 UT records, including all-time marks for scoring (339), field goals (59) and field goal accuracy (74.7%). His scoring total ranked 16th on the NCAA all-time list and 12th among kickers. He set UT records by hitting 15-straight field goals (1996-97) and 54-straight extra points (1994-95), while also establishing a UT record by making six-straight field goals from 50 or more yards from 1995-97.

A 1998 graduate of UT with a degree in political science, Dawson was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection in 1997.

After his career at Texas, his determination and resiliency were tested as he pursued an NFL career. He signed as undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders following the 1998 NFL draft, was waived, and then picked up by the New England Patriots and placed on the practice squad. He eventually signed as free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 1999, going on to spend more than two decades in the NFL and become one of the most consistent kickers in league history. He spent 14 seasons in Cleveland and four more with the San Francisco 49ers before finishing his career with the Arizona Cardinals for two seasons.

During his 21-year NFL career that included 20 as a starting placekicker, Dawson was a perennial team captain until his retirement in 2019. He played in 305 career NFL games (currently eighth-most in league history) and ranks eighth in field goals made (441) and 12th in points scored (1,847). He is among the NFL's top all-time field goal percentage kickers despite spending most of his time in challenging weather conditions in Cleveland, connecting on 441-of-526 attempts (83.8%), with a long of 57 yards.

Dawson broke legendary NFL kicker Lou Groza's all-time Browns made field goal record with 305 during his time in Cleveland and ranks second only to Groza on the team all-time scoring list with 1,271 points. He still owns Browns' records for most consecutive field goals made (27) and most field goals in a game (six).

Throughout his time with the Browns, he was a not only a star, but a prominent face and representative of the franchise. He was voted the 2012 Browns Player of the Year by the local Professional Football Writers Association (PFWA) chapter and concluded his overall career by signing a one-day contract for a celebratory retirement with Cleveland in 2019.

Among the many accolades of his career, Dawson earned second-team All-Pro honors twice (2007 and 2012) and a spot on the Pro Bowl roster in 2012. He earned AFC or NFC Player of the Week honors eight times and was tabbed the 49ers Bill Walsh Award winner as the team MVP after making 24-of-27 field-goal attempts in 2016.

Following his playing days, Dawson has gone on to a successful career in coaching. He first became the special teams coordinator at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville in 2020-21, and is now in his first year as head coach and assistant athletics director at Hyde Park Schools in Austin where he began this January.

At all of his stops along the way, Dawson has maintained deep ties to civic and community involvement. At Texas, he was active in the community and as a member of the UT and national collegiate Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) program, regularly sharing his story and message with local and regional church groups and organizations.

Dawson has been active in every NFL community he's played in, but particularly Cleveland where he founded the "Dawson's 4 Adoption" season ticket program which provided tickets, apparel and food for the Adoption Network Cleveland organization. He was tabbed the 2006 Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates (Cleveland Touchdown Club) and the 2006 winner of the Doug Dieken Humanitarian Award for his charitable and community efforts, recognized by the Cleveland Touchdown Club. The following year, he was voted the 2007 Dino Lucarelli "Good Guy" Award honoree by the local Cleveland PFWA.

His wife, Shannon, is an accomplished singer who has sung the National Anthem prior to Browns' home games, toured with Wayne Newton from 1992-94 and sang at George W. Bush's Inauguration after he was elected Governor of Texas in 1994. They have two sons, Dru and Beau, and a daughter, Sophiann.


Monday, December 05, 2022

How did Marshal Yanda go from third-round pick to Ravens Ring of Honor? ‘I unlocked potential inside of me.’


 




By Childs Walker | December 2, 2022

Three years.

Marshal Yanda, ever the pragmatist, thought that would be a pretty fair NFL run for a guy from Anamosa, Iowa, with “marginal foot quickness” and a “lack of power” in the words of pro scouts.

“You don’t really know how fast that goes,” he said, thinking back to those days.

After 13 NFL seasons for the Ravens, during which he watched many a prospect come and go, Yanda knows well how unlikely he was to have the career did.

Of the 35 players drafted in the third round in 2007, only 18 became starters for even one season. Of those, exactly one other, Yanda’s eventual teammate, Jacoby Jones, made a Pro Bowl. Yanda made eight, and on Sunday, he’ll become the 11th Ravens player to join the Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium.

“I just got my hair cut and I was talking to my hair lady,” Yanda said on the phone from his native Iowa. “And I was like, ‘Listen, I was a junior college transfer, so for me to go from that to a Ring of Honor inductee, it’s unbelievable.’ I unlocked potential inside of me that I had no idea I had.”

So how did this farm boy, who didn’t even bother fantasizing about the NFL when he was toiling anonymously at North Iowa Area Community College, become the one to defy those long odds?

It’s a story of discipline and toughness built over childhood days working the harvest but also of an innate feel for football and of the luck required to land on a team overflowing with professional role models.

“Football was the No. 1 goal in my life,” he said. “The more success I had, the more I wanted to be a better player.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t the least bit surprised when Yanda outperformed his draft slot. He’d watched him do it before.

“He kind of recruited us,” he recalled. “We looked at his tape and it was good but not ‘wow.’”




















Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda's NFL career is a story of discipline and toughness built over childhood days working the harvest but also of innate feel for football and of the luck required to land on a team overflowing with professional role models. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

When the young transfer showed up, he didn’t exactly blow Ferentz’s staff away. He did not have prototype size or strength, and he moved, kind of awkwardly? It wasn’t until they strapped on pads and started crashing bodies that Ferentz realized what he had.

“He went from being a guy I thought we might end up redshirting to, at the end of the week, this guy might be our best lineman,” he said.

Ferentz assumed the same revelation would strike coaches in Baltimore, where he’d worked before he took the Iowa job: “When I talked to scouts, I just told them that: ‘You’ll get him in the out-of-season program when he’ll be in shorts and he’ll be OK. But three days after you start practicing football, the line coach will come down the hall and thank you.’ That’s his strength, just playing football.”

Chris Foerster, the Ravens’ offensive line coach at the time, recalled Greg Roman, then his assistant, traveling to Iowa to work out Yanda and reporting that the kid repeatedly tripped over bags set up for an agility drill.

“Marshal wasn’t a cone-drill guy,” said Foerster, who now coaches for the San Francisco 49ers. “But that’s where Eric DeCosta, Ozzie [Newsome], all those guys through the years have done such a good job: finding the right kind of guy. That’s what Yanda was.”

Yanda, always practical, did not fully believe he was an NFL prospect until he received an invite to the Senior Bowl. He knew 90% of players selected for the postseason showcase made a pro roster the following fall.

Still, he was the third-most-hyped rookie lineman on the Ravens behind first-round pick Ben Grubbs and mammoth tackle Jared Gaither. When he walked into the locker room, his jaw dropped at the awesome stature of left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who’d made the Pro Bowl 10 years in a row. Yanda, six inches shorter with comparatively stubby arms, knew he couldn’t be that.

But what could he pick up from these grown men who’d cracked the code of NFL success?

He watched Ogden fine-tune his pass sets, even as the future Hall of Fame tackle came down to the last weeks of his career, slowed by an ailing toe. He noted how outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (and later center Matt Birk) seemed impervious to the grinding pressure of the NFL. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, as accomplished and brash as Yanda was unsung and understated, taught him what it meant to work at the game seven days a week.












Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda heads to the locker room during the regular-season finale against the Steelers in 2019. On Sunday, the eight-time Pro Bowl selection will become the 11th Ravens player to join the Ring of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam)


“He was calm, he was collected, he was never late, he never missed a meeting. Football was No. 1,” Yanda recalled. “On Sundays, I could trust these guys. When it comes down to it, your actions are going to be exposed. So if you aren’t doing things the right way, you’re going to be exposed on the main stage.”

To this day, he sounds irritated when describing the (unnamed) teammates who did not care as much.

Yanda started the first game of his rookie season, at tackle, because Ogden sprained his foot. By his own contemporary assessment, he was “pretty bad,” with a pair of false starts and a holding penalty.

Foerster saw a player who was in over his head at times, who couldn’t demonstrate a perfect pass-block set to save his life, but who found ways to succeed regardless.

“His start was rough,” he said. “Not rough in that he played poorly; he played well. But he had to figure it out, playing out of position as a rookie for a team that, at that point, we weren’t very good.”

He noticed a quality that Ferentz also mentioned: Even if Yanda was off-balance or confused on a play, he always hunted for a defender to eliminate. “I remember a game, we were on the sideline in Buffalo, and I said, ‘Marshal, I’m trying to figure out, did you pick up this guy or that guy?’” Foerster said. “And he said, ‘Coach, I’ve got to be honest; I just saw a whole bunch of them coming, and I picked one out and blocked him.’”

And of course, there’s the Taser story: Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister showed up with the shocking device and $500 for any teammate who would take a jolt. No one immediately stepped forward, so the pot grew to $600, at which point Yanda grabbed the Taser and shocked himself not once but twice. John Harbaugh, who coached Yanda for 12 of his 13 seasons, referenced this episode recently when asked what set him apart.

“That’s a guy who’s got a future in this league,” Harbaugh said, chuckling. “Especially at offensive guard.”











Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda smiles during practice at the team's training facility on June 11, 2019. “Football was the No. 1 goal in my life,” he said. “The more success I had, the more I wanted to be a better player.” (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Even so, Yanda hardly took off like a rocket. He played in all 16 games and started 12 that first season. But he tore up his knee the next year, and he had to jump back to right tackle — a position where he held his own but never felt he had the physical stature to dominate — to cover a roster hole in 2010. Not until his fifth season, 2011, did he settle in at right guard and begin his long run of Pro Bowl appearances.

“I really got addicted to being the best I could be,” he said, recalling the rigid offseason fitness plans, the refinements he made to his technique, the adjustments, such as the shift he made to the left side in the middle of the 2016 season to protect his damaged left shoulder. He never wanted to be “put out to pasture” because he had left some stone unturned.

Somewhere in that post-2011 span, Yanda became the model for young linemen who walked into the Ravens locker room or into the weight room at Iowa, where he still worked out in the offseason. They noted the way he tried to make every practice repetition perfect, the way he set a personal best in the back squat during his penultimate season, when he was 34 years old, coming off shoulder surgery and an ankle fracture.

“His Pro Bowl jersey was up in our O-line room, and there was a picture of him,” said Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum, who arrived at Iowa more than a decade after Yanda left. “If any Iowa linemen are mentioned, he’s one of the first to come up. We all kind of knew how he operated.”

Foerster said Yanda would be on the dream starting five of linemen he’s coached, with 2009 Hall of Fame selection Randall McDaniel at left guard, Ogden and current 49ers star Trent Williams at the tackles. “You get in the club by having enough talent,” he said. “Once you’re in the club, how do you become one of the best? That’s by who you are and how you work and how you prepare and what you do when adversity strikes. A guy like Marshal wasn’t going to come out and have instant success. It was going to be a grind.”

What does Yanda say to an Iowa kid who’s walking the same steps he did 15 years ago, aspiring to the same improbable future?

“I keep it simple for them,” he said. “I grew up on a farm, where work ethic was a way of life. So I tell them you have to work extremely hard for things you want in life. Every human has choices to make every single day; you have to make the right ones. And then discipline, which is doing that stuff when you don’t want to, 365 days a year. Do you really want to do this? Then, this is what it takes.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

LB Ben Niemann quietly has been important part of Cardinals' defense

 













Jess Root 

The Arizona Cardinals have two linebackers that get a lot of attention in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, both of whom were first-round draft picks who have had important roles in 2022. They also have a quiet but important linebacker in Ben Niemann, who has been playing an important role.

He has stepped up in a big role since Nick Vigil got injured.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has been very impressed by him.

“Ben is a guy who from, Day One, who has been exact in his assignments,” Joseph said Thursday. “When you are playing with a lot of young guys with talent, you need guys like Ben to be exact. He is a part of the machine and you can count on Ben to always do his part.”

He is a great example for Simmons and Collins.

“He’s a defensive favorite because he’s a guy who does it right. That’s football,” he said. “You have to have guys who are going to do it right so Isaiah and Zaven and Budda (Baker) can make their plays.”

He is the disciplined stalwart in the middle of the field.

“He makes his plays when they come to him, he’s a very clear communicator,” he added. “He’s pretty good in coverage, too.”

He will get to see his brother, who plays for the Chargers, this weekend.


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