Dodson's Dark Past Sets Up Bright Future

Given the fact that Kyle Dodson will play at Ohio State in the fall, one would think he's been blessed in all walks of his life. However, the former Cleveland Heights, Ohio offensive lineman has had to endure quite a bit to get to this point. Dodson's full story is inside.

Kyle Dodson was the featured part of a well-staged National Signing Day ceremony, but most of the audience was growing eager for it to end. The four-star offensive tackle from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, had yet to announce his highly anticipated college decision, and he was the last of nine Tiger seniors to be honored.

When Dodson's time eventually came, the restless crowd became silent. With 50 of his teammates surrounding him at the base of the stage, the 6-6, 310-pound gentle giant led a charismatic announcement consisting of a rap the team typically did after regular-season games.

"I wanted to do something with my team," Dodson said to the eager crowd before eliciting the start of the loud chant that won't soon be forgotten.

"I got that feeling," he shouted.

"Oh, yeah," his teammates responded.

"I sealed my fate."

"Oh, yeah."

"I got that feeling."

"Oh, yeah."

"It's on the plate."

"Oh, yeah."

"I got that feeling."

"Oh, yeah."

"Ohio State!"

Dodson simultaneously pulled a Buckeyes hat out of a sling that was supporting his surgically repaired right shoulder. The crowd erupted and the live audience watching it online celebrated because Ohio State had just landed one of the top offensive linemen in the country.

And in that moment while others cheered, Dodson's mind quickly took him to memories of his late mother, Catherine Moore, and those thoughts – now reserved more for fond memories rather than the grief of her sudden death – were behind the biggest smile of the young man's life.

"I think about her every day," Dodson told BSB after the celebration ended. "Today is one of the biggest days of my life and she was in my thoughts as I celebrated. She was here with me."

The event that took place in the Cleveland Heights assembly room was the celebration of a young man who had everything going for him. Dodson is a solid student, he has more friends than he can count, and he's one of the best high school football players in the nation. Now, he's going to Ohio State.

Dodson, though, doesn't have a mother, something he's had to live without since he was 11. It was a warm July day in 2005 when she drove with a friend to go shopping. On her way home, a truck driven by a driver who was high on crack cocaine struck her car. Dodson's mom was dead at 39.

"It was a hardship for everybody, especially for Kyle because he was the youngest," Dodson's older brother, Jeremy Moore, 21, told BSB. "He was really trying to find himself at the time – not having the guidance of your mother. It was a dark time for him. There's no doubt about it."

Because his father was out of the picture long before his mother passed away, Dodson's grandparents, George and Barbara Allen, took custody and raised him and his three other brothers. Dodson was a chubby kid with no mother, friends or outlets, and he became an easy target for his classmates to bully.

"They made fun of me and I got jumped," said Dodson, who saw his weight increase to more than 350 pounds in middle school. "Just because I was the fat kid. I was an 11-year-old loser. Nobody liked me and they beat me up because of it."

It was an everyday occurrence for Dodson in the four months until Jeff Rotsky took over as the head coach of the Cleveland Heights football program. While he was scanning the local middle schools for talent in an effort to rebuild the Tigers program, Rotsky spotted Dodson.

"He was huge, but he was a quiet kid that kind of kept to himself," Rotsky told BSB. "That was somebody I obviously wanted to get to know."

As Rotsky's role as a mentor in Dodson's life grew – others would refer to him as a father figure – Dodson's confidence began to expand. For the first time in his life, much of which was recently spent in a state of confusion, he was excelling in something other than school.

Dodson's progress on the field was evident early in his high school career, as he became a sophomore starter on the Tigers' varsity team. That team would have made its first playoff appearance in school history, but an error involving a player who transferred into the program forced Heights to forfeit three games late in the season.

The 2009 season, which ended in heartbreak for the missed opportunity to play in the postseason, was almost the last football memory Dodson had. As his junior year approached, he suffered from chronic back pain and an MRI revealed an issue with his spine. Doctors told him he was done with football.

The first half of his junior year, Dodson was back in the dark place he thought he escaped when he was 11. Standing on the sidelines as he watched his friends partake in the activity he loved, the pain he felt in his back gradually began to subside. A checkup from another doctor gave him clearance to return to the football field.

His grandmother wasn't quite ready to allow him to suit back up, though.

"It was a really tough decision," Barbara Allen told BSB. "Obviously it was something he loved to do, but we weren't sure it was worth risking his health. At the end of the day, though, we knew how important it was to him. It was the thing that helped him move on from the hard times he experienced. We couldn't hold him back from that."

Dodson played in the final four games of his junior year, helping set him up for one of the most anticipated senior seasons in prep football in the state of Ohio. He was ranked by as the nation's No. 24 offensive lineman in the 2012 class, and he didn't disappoint.

As the plays added up in his senior year, so did the scholarship offers. With Ohio State dealing with off-the-field issues and uncertainty within the program, Dodson made an early commitment to Wisconsin.

The games progressed and he eventually helped Cleveland Heights to a 9-1 season before falling to Lakewood St. Edward in the state playoffs. Dodson played the final four games of his senior season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

"He still never gave up a sack all season even with that injury," said Cleveland Heights quarterback Bryce Jones, who will play at Boston College next year. "We ran to his side, ran to his side, and we never had to think twice about it. He's tough and he was there for our team. He's a warrior and he meant everything to our success."

"It was extremely painful," Dodson admitted. "Every time I locked out, it felt like someone was cutting my arm off. But I didn't want to let my team down. They run the ball to my side a lot. I wanted my team to win. I wanted to get that ring. If I didn't play, I would have let a lot of guys down."

Toward the tail end of his season, Ohio State's situation became more stable with the hiring of Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes' new head coach immediately contacted Dodson and reaffirmed the program's interest in the offensive lineman.

Dodson admitted to being put off about the pending NCAA violations Ohio State was facing at the time, but perhaps the thing that initially pushed him to Wisconsin even more was the slower pace at which the previous OSU regime recruited him.

Meyer picked up that effort immediately, and Dodson reopened his recruitment and eventually signed with the in-state team.

"I knew I wanted to go to Ohio State when Coach Meyer looked me in the eye and told me he really cared about me even if I went somewhere else," Dodson said.

It's been an interesting path for Dodson, whose future now seems infinitely brighter after having to endure a dark path.

"All those things made him who he is today," Jeremy Moore said. "Now look at him. All the people that beat him up – I don't see them up there making it today. And he's still on his way."

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