Hometown Heroes

Hometown Heroes: Tucson High’s Mike Dawson chose Arizona “to give state a good football team”

With Arizona gaining this week the commitment of 5-star Salpointe defensive end Elijah Rushing, the highest rated recruit in Wildcat history according to 247Sports, AllSportsTucson.com is reliving the decisions made by previous elite local standouts who stayed home and played for the Wildcats.


High School: Tucson (Class of 1972)

Position: Defensive tackle

Size: 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds

Chose Arizona instead of attending: Colorado, Texas, Notre Dame, USC or ASU.

The late Mike Dawson tallied 38 sacks from 1973-1975 at Arizona (Arizona Athletics photo)

High school accolades: Parade All-American and Coach & Athlete Magazine All-American after leading Tucson High to state championships in 1970 and 1971 under coach Ollie Mayfield.

Quotable: “I want to give our state a good football team.” — Mike Dawson to the Tucson Citizen

Notable: His brother Bill Dawson was a standout lineman at Tucson High who graduated in 1967. He led the Badgers to state titles in 1965 and 1966 and also won the state championships as a heavyweight wrestler in 1966 and 1967. He went on to play at Michigan State. … Arizona defensive line coach Sharkey Price was instrumental in coach Bob Weber landing Mike Dawson, who credited Price for him wanting to stay with the Wildcats after a turbulent 4-7 season as a freshman that resulted in a coaching change. “When I think of Sharkey Price, I think of Mike,” Jim Young, the coach who replaced Weber in 1973, told the Tucson Citizen. “Sharkey was a great coach and he really worked with Mike. Mike was his boy.” … Dawson told the Citizen that he laughed about ASU’s scholarship offer from Frank Kush. “They knew I wasn’t coming up there.” … A recruiter at Colorado chastised him for picking Arizona over the Buffaloes. “Colorado’s recruiter had worked on me for some time, but I finally told him I was going to Arizona,” Dawson told the Citizen. “He was belligerent. He told me I was making a horrible mistake and asked me to give him one reason why I would want to go to Arizona.” Dawson said he answered him, “I want to give our state a good football team.”

Mike Dawson at his Sports Page Lounge (Tucson Citizen photo)

Postscripts: Arizona went 12-19 under Weber in the three seasons before Dawson joined Arizona’s program in 1972. After going 4-7 as a freshman in Weber’s last season at Arizona, the Wildcats went 26-7 in Dawson’s last three seasons with Young as head coach. … Dawson became a second-team All-American as a senior at Arizona. He was a two-time first-team All-WAC selection in 1974 and 1975. He was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.  … He was a first-round selection in the NFL Draft in 1976, going to the St. Louis Cardinals as the No. 22 pick overall. He played nine seasons in the NFL before retiring and becoming an entrepreneur in Tucson. At the time of his death from a heart attack, at age 54 in 2008, he owned a landscaping company and the Sports Page Lounge on Oracle Road. He was about to become an assistant coach at Pima College after coaching stints at Pueblo and Mountain View high schools.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator seven years ago and is presently a special education teacher at his alma mater Sunnyside High School.

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