Monday, May 16, 2022

Browns legend Phil Dawson schools Cade York on kicking in Cleveland | Jeff Schudel’s Cleveland Beat


Cade York prepares to kick during rookie minicamp May 13. (Brian Fisher – For The News-Herald)

By JEFF SCHUDEL | | The News-Herald

PUBLISHED: May 14, 2022 at 3:05 p.m. | UPDATED: May 14, 2022 at 3:06 p.m.


Phil Dawson kicked for the Browns from 1999-2012, and then his former team spent the next 10 years fruitlessly trying to find a reliable replacement.

At last, the search might be over.

Two hundred sixty-two players were selected in the 2022 draft, and only one was a kicker. The Browns used pick 124 to draft Cade York from LSU. They took him with one of the three picks acquired from Houston when they traded the 44th overall pick to the Texans.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer took York to FirstEnergy Stadium on May 13, the first day of rookie minicamp, so York could get acclimated to kicking on the Browns’ home turf. The weather conditions will be much different in November and December, but York had to start his pro career somewhere.

“It was awesome,” York said before the rest of the team practiced at the team’s training complex in Berea. “I got to get in there and see what the wind is like and kicked a few balls.  It was pretty nice (weather), nicer than most games at LSU, honestly, so I’m excited to see what it’s like when it’s windy.”

York said he spoke with Dawson for about 30 or 40 minutes by phone May 6. After 14 years in a Browns uniform, in which he scored 1,271 points, Dawson kicked four additional seasons with the 49ers and then two more with the Cardinals. Dawson’s wisdom is something a coach can’t teach.

“I think that’s great,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after practice May 13. “Phil has been an outstanding ambassador for our team and certainly our specialists. To be able to connect with Phil and talk through FirstEnergy Stadium is an important part of it.”

Dawson, 47, has gone full circle. After living in Nashville for two years, he and his family now live in Austin, Texas, where Dawson made his mark kicking for the Texas Longhorns. Dawson is in his first year as head football coach of Hyde Park School in Austin.

“He kind of went through some of the stuff that he did, plant cleats, talked about the wind a little bit, different types of conditions,” York said. “Everyone has their own style of going about things, but it was cool to pick his brain about a few things.

“He just mentioned that there are going to be days that are tough. You just got to go out there and hit a true ball. You’ve got to be OK with not hitting it right down the middle every time, just have confidence in what you do and not every kick is going to be the same. He said people would be mentioning the flag.”

Kicking was and remains a science to Dawson. Kicking toward the goal post in front of the Dawg Pound at the eastern end of FirstEnergy Stadium challenges all kickers, but Dawson learned the best way to judge the wind speed was to watch a flag in the southwest corner of the end zone.

“Early in my time in Cleveland, I noticed that days when the wind was out of the southwest, it was a brutal day to kick,” Dawson told Dawgs by Nature in 2020. “I needed some sort of gauge of how hard the wind was entering the southwest tunnel of the stadium.

“I asked Chris Powell, our grounds crew leader, if he could get some sort of flag up. The next home game, there it was. I believe it’s still there to this day, but with the stadium renovations, I don’t think that Southwest tunnel is as big as it used to be.”

Dawson revealed he also got some help from an unlikely source — a former Secret Service sniper who worked security for the Browns.

“Ken Rundle, former Secret Service sniper, taught me that the angle a flag is blowing, if you divide by four, that’s the approximate wind speed. I took his word for it,” he said.

Dawson wanted to stay with the Browns after 2012, but rather than sign him to an extension, former Browns head of football operations Joe Banner let Dawson leave through free agency in 2013. Had he stayed with the Browns, even for only 2013, Dawson would have broken Lou Groza’s franchise scoring record of 1,349 points. Dawson is only 78 points shy of the record.

The list of kickers in the post-Dawson era is long. Billy Cundiff kicked in 2013 and 2014. Travis Coons was the kicker in 2015. Cody Parkey was one and done in 2016, and then Zane Gonzalez kicked in 2017. Greg Joseph was the kicker in 2018.

Austin Seibert, drafted by the Browns in the fifth round in 2019, handled the kicking duties his rookie year and was cut after one game in 2020 — Stefanski’s first year as head coach. Parkey returned to Cleveland and kicked the final 15 games of 2020 and then was beaten out by Chase McLaughlin last summer. McLaughlin was waived after York was drafted.

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