Dawson a priority for Cats

Lamar Dawson is a priority for Kentucky, where former Boyle coach Chuck Smith is the recruiting coordinator.

He's taken an official visit to Oregon and watched the second-ranked Ducks beat Stanford. He just got back from an unofficial visit to Florida where he saw the Gators lose a heart breaker to LSU.

Now Boyle County standout Lamar Dawson is about to experience another first — an official invitation to the U.S. Army All-America Bowl Jan. 8 in San Antonio at the Alamo Dome that is shown live on NBC.

Bowl officials will be at Boyle County High School Thursday for a 2:30 p.m. pep rally for Boyle students and fans when Dawson will be presented with his official bowl jersey.

"I know Lamar is really excited about having a chance to play in the game. It's really a big honor. The game is on network TV and he gets to go down to Texas and compete with America's best high school seniors. I know he appreciates playing in a game of that magnitude," said Boyle assistant coach John Hodge.

Yet Dawson probably could do without Thursday's ceremony so he could simply concentrate on Friday's game against West Jessamine.

"He's not a real flashy guy. He's more of a ‘let's go to work and play' than he is something like this," Hodge said.

Yet this is a big deal and deserves all the attention it will get. Few Kentucky players have ever played in this game — another plus for his Mr. Football candidacy — and he'll be the first from this area ever to play in the game.

The nation's elite players participate in this game that started in 2001. Former stars to play in the game include Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Michael Oher, the inspiration for the movie "The Blind Side."

"It is really, really a big deal and Lamar knows that," Hodge said.

Of course, when you have the size and speed Dawson has, schools also know what a big deal he is. He's a dominant linebacker who most college recruiting analysts think can make an immediate impact in college even though he only turn 17 this month.

That's why he is a priority for Kentucky, where former Boyle coach Chuck Smith is the recruiting coordinator. It's why Oregon and USC have been here to see him. It's why Florida's co-defensive coordinator came to watch him play the night before the Gators played at Knoxville. It's why first-year Louisville coach Charlie Strong found his way to Danville quickly.

Dawson got his first-hand look at Oregon on game day to see what that would be like. Hodge, two other Boyle coaches, the parent of one Boyle player and six Boyle players made the all-night drive to Gainesville last weekend with Dawson so he could see what Florida was like on game day.

"He watched a really good game even though they lost. It was good that he got to spend extra time with some of his teammates, but he mainly wanted to experience game day there," Hodge said. "I don't know if there was any new information he found out. When he went earlier in the summer, there wasn't anybody there. Nobody was really on campus. He got to see a little bit of what campus life would be like last weekend."

Dawson will be at the Kentucky-Georgia game Oct. 23, a visit that has been planned for several weeks. Hodge said there's really been no change in Dawson's recruiting scenario with no new teams "jumping out" in recent weeks.

Since Dawson has indicated he's in no hurry to make his college choice, he could pick his school during the bowl game. Bowl officials encourage players to announce their choice on national TV and Dawson has indicated that even though national signing day is in February, he might make his choice known at the bowl game.

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