Lexington's Dawson thrilled to be elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Only second UK player to gain entry

February 4, 2012 

  • Dermontti Dawson

    Born: June 17, 1965, in Lexington

    Height, weight: 6-2, 288

    High school: Bryan Station

    College: Kentucky

    Resides: San Diego, Calif.

    Pro highlights

    ■ Played his entire career (1988-2000) for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A second-round draft pick (44th overall) out of UK.

    ■ A first-team Pro Bowl selection six consecutive years (1993-98) and selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1993-99).

    ■ Played 184 games, including 170 straight until sidelined by a hamstring injury.

    ■ Co-AFC offensive lineman of the year, with Richmond Webb, as chosen by the NFL Players Association in 1993. Offensive lineman of the year in 1996, by NFL Alumni.

    ■ Helped Steelers to five AFC Central Division titles and one AFC Championship.

    Notes

    ■ Nicknamed "Cookie Monster" at UK because of his appetite for chocolate chip cookies.

    ■ Nicknamed "Dirt" with the Steelers because of his appetite for blocking defenders farther into the dirt after putting them on the ground.

Dermontti Dawson had no time to celebrate upon being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The former University of Kentucky and Bryan Station High School standout was in San Diego watching his phone blow up as he tried to catch a flight to Indianapolis by Sunday.

As one of six electees to the Hall of Fame's Class of 2012, Dawson will be making the rounds at the Super Bowl.

"I probably won't be able to celebrate until I get a chance to breathe," Dawson said when reached by phone Saturday night. "I've got to get all my stuff packed. I did have some stuff packed, but I didn't want to be thinking I was already going to make it."

Taking phone calls was a feat in itself, Dawson said on the NFL Network shortly after the announcement.

"It's caused my phone to malfunction," he said. "I've had multiple texts, over 100-plus texts and phone calls, it's been non-stop. But it's a good thing."

Joining Dawson in the 2012 class are Curtis Martin, Cortez Kennedy, Chris Doleman, Willie Roaf and Jack Butler. The six were chosen from a group of 17 finalists Saturday by the Hall of Fame's 44-member selection committee.

Dawson, an All-Pro center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was a finalist each of the previous three years and was a Hall of Fame nominee the three seasons before that.

Despite the wait, he said he was never worried that he would not eventually be chosen. He was not so certain it would happen this year.

"I was pleasantly surprised, put it that way," he said. "It's a big honor. It's a great honor."

Dawson and the rest of the 2012 class will be inducted during the Hall of Fame's annual ceremony Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.

Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter and Bill Parcells were among the finalists who didn't make it in Saturday.

Dawson, 46, became only the second UK player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining 1981 inductee George Blanda.

He is only the 37th offensive lineman among the Hall of Fame's 267 members, a rarity that Dawson said comes with the position: "We don't have stats as offensive linemen; that's the tough part about it.

"It's usually receivers, quarterbacks, all the skill guys that get the most visibility. The only time you hear our names is if we get a holding call.

"You really have to do something special, and hopefully I did something special enough to deserve this honor."

Dawson, a Lexington native, is the third Hall of Famer born in Kentucky, joining Paul Hornung of Louisville (1986 inductee) and George McAfee of Corbin (1966).

"This is something that my kids can take their kids to see, that you're enshrined in the Hall of Fame, immortalized, where they can bring family from here on out and see what their granddad did," Dawson said during the NFL Network broadcast.

Dawson, who lived in the Lexington area for several years after his retirement and has served on the UK board of trustees and the UK Athletics board, now works in San Diego as vice president of sales in the West Coast office of Prime Time Plus, a promotional products company.

A two-way tackle in high school and an offensive guard in college, Dawson made his name with the Steelers at center. Some say Dawson is the best player ever at his position.

He made seven Pro Bowls as the Steelers' center, that rare snapper who also could block defensive players one on one. He replaced a Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, and started every game at center for the Steelers from 1989 to 1998. He spent 13 seasons in the NFL, all with Pittsburgh.

Dawson played for Kentucky from 1984 to 1987 under Coach Jerry Claiborne. Dawson and current Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips were teammates during the 1984 season.

Dawson was a member of the 1984 Kentucky squad that beat Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl and finished 9-3. He was named All-Southeastern Conference as a senior and is a graduate of the UK college of education.

Staff writer Mark Maloney contributed to this report.

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