March 18, 2014

Dawson Reaches NLL's 1,000 Point Plateau

by Neil Stevens | | Twitter

Despite coming into the game with little fanfare as a late-round pick in 2001, Dan Dawson has blossomed into a star, becoming the seventh player in NLL history to make it to the 1,000 point mark. (Clint Trahan)

Dan Dawson of the Rochester Knighthawks just reached the 1,000-point milestone, which is remarkable given how anonymous he was when he began playing indoor pro lacrosse.

He was the 68th player selected in the 2001 entry draft by an expansion team in Ohio called the Columbus Landsharks.

''I didn't think my chances of making it were very good,'' Dawson recalls. ''I was extremely lucky to be drafted by an expansion team. If I hadn't been drafted by an expansion team, I don't think I would have been playing in the league. I was a longshot to make it.''

He knows exactly why he went so late in the draft.

''I developed physically and mentally a little later than a lot of guys,'' he says. ''I didn't have the strongest work ethic in junior either. I didn't even realize there was a next level of lacrosse back then.''

Now, all these years later, Dawson is the seventh man to reach the 1,000-point milestone.

''I've been blessed to play with so many great players and on so many great teams,'' he says. ''To have the longetivity I've had says a lot about training staffs who help keep you going, coaches who believe in you, and the support of your family who support what you do.''

He broke in as a defenseman. After being moved up front in Columbus, assistant coach Bob Hamley mentored him.

''Bob Hamley forced me to be the player I am today starting in my second year in Columbus,'' Dawson recalls. ''I was only 21. He used to say that elite goal scorers don't stop at two or three. They keep going. He saw something in me that I didn't see.''

Dawson had 997 points when he pulled on the pads in Toronto last Saturday night. He scored Rochester's first goal and set up Johnny Powless for the team's second. With the Knighthawks trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, Dawson got his 1,000th point by assisting on a goal by Mark Vitarelli. The 'Hawks roared back to win 17-12. Dawson finished with a goal and seven assists, padding his career total to 1,005.

''The nickname sort of says it all for him,'' says Vitarelli. ''He's triple D _ Dangerous Dan Dawson.

''He's such a threat out there. He's got size and skill. He can beat you with his shot or he can draw guys to him to open up space for teammates and feed passes.''

Being tall gives Dawson great stretch-span on dives into creases, and one of his best traits is his attitude.

''He's a great team guy,'' says Vitarelli. ''He's such a positive guy. He works hard and leads by example.''

''Daws is a calming factor out there,'' says head coach Mike Hasen. ''He sees the floor well and makes his teammates better. He's earned everything he's got. A thousand points, that's great.''

The 'Hawks flew to Philadelphia after the win in Toronto and beat the Wings 11-7 on Sunday afternoon. Dawson scored three goals and assisted on two so, after a 13-point weekend, he now has 1,010 career points.

Dawson enjoys being a playmaker. He still scores a lot of goals but his assist totals have soared in recent seasons. Cody Jamieson is one of the beneficiaries.

''It's a lot of fun being on the floor with Dan but it's kinda tough at the same time because he plays the game so well and his lacrosse IQ is so high that you're trying to play good enough to elevate your game to where his is at,'' says Jamieson. ''He makes everybody else that much better.

''You're trying to play up to his standard, which is awesome. He's on the right side and I'm on the left. He's an excellent passer. He can see a play happen before it does so you're just trying to play and hopefully you make the right one because he can definitely find you.''

Stephen Keogh likes to barge into the heart of an opposing team's defense and look for a pass from Dawson.

''On the floor and off the floor, he's one of the best leaders I've had the privilege of playing with,'' says Keogh. ''He cares so much about the game and about the team that he'll do anything. He's a great passer but he can also put the ball in the net. He's a complete player.''

Dawson played after Columbus for pro indoor teams in Arizona, Portland, Ore., and Boston. All four folded before he wound up in Philadelphia. He was only there a year before being acquired by Rochester owner-GM Curt Styres along with brother Paul Dawson in a multiplayer deal that sent Paul Rabil to the Wings in December 2012. Rabil isn't in the NLL this year. If the Wings had known he'd be unavailable, they'd never have traded away the Dawsons.

The brothers earned their first championship rings last year. Styres proceeded to sign Dan to a seven-year deal. Dan might have been happy to rove the continent in his early pro years but now he's happy to be in one place, hopefully, for the rest of his career under the leadership of an owner for whom he has great respect.

Rochester, 9-3, has won four straight and is battling Buffalo, 8-2, for first place in the NLL East. The regular-season title will likely be decided by the results of games between the two teams April 19 in Rochester and April 26 in Buffalo. But Hasen will keep them thinking in the present rather than the future.

''We're going to deal with Buffalo the last two games,'' says the new member of the 1,000-Point Club. ''We've got an undefeated team (Edmonton) up next and after that a very scary Vancouver team that is due for a big run. The same can be said about Minnesota, who we play after that. Buffalo is not on our radar right now. We're focusing week to week.''

Dan Dawson, 32, and Paul Dawson, 28, have a lot on their collective plate as both spend their weekdays as firefighters in Brampton, which is a half hour's drive northwest of Toronto.

The top 10 all-time points leaders:

1. John Tavares, Buffalo, 1,699
2. Colin Doyle, Toronto, 1,317
3. John Grant Jr., Colorado, 1,253
4. Josh Sanderson, Toronto, 1,192
5. Gary Gait, retired, 1,165
6. Shawn Williams, Buffalo, 1,138
7. Dan Dawson, Rochester, 1,010
8. Gavin Prout, UFA, 922
9. Lewis Ratcliff, Vancouver, 920
10. Blaine Manning, retired, 833

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