Although he was a longtime Illinois commit, Trotwood (Ohio) Madison cornerback Reon Dawson pulled the trigger for Michigan Monday. He joins teammate Mike McCray as a member of the Wolverines' 2013 recruiting class, and is commitment No. 26 for U-M. Coming off the heels of an official visit to Ann Arbor, the time was right to become a Wolverine.
"I just felt like it was the best place for me," Dawson explained. "When I went up there, I enjoyed being with my teammates. I know a lot of the players in my class, and that helped. I'm going to have that home-away-from-home feeling."
Dawson knew while on Michigan's campus over the weekend that he would be committing in short order - and even informed his area recruiter, linebackers coach Mark Smith - but didn't know exactly when he would make the switch. He set a personal deadline of Wednesday, but felt that the time was right Monday evening.
"I told Illinois that I appreciate everything they did for me, but I have to do what's in my best interests and look out for me," he said. "I need to be selfish for once. I needed to do something that's right for me, so I decommitted. I told [Illinois head coach Tim] Beckman and a couple of the Illinois coaches. My position coach hasn't called me back yet, but I called him.
"I talked to Coach Smith and told him while I was up there that I was going to do it. I just told him that it was going to be when I got back. They didn't know what day, but I told them I was going to do it and the latest would be Wednesday, so he knew."
Although Illinois was a good fit for Dawson as well, he simply couldn't pass up the opportunity at Michigan, either. The combination of top-level football and top-level academics is something that he felt was right.
"Education was a big part of it," he said. "Instead of taking four years and then going into the workforce, you can try it while you're still in college to see if you like it or not. That way you won't waste four years on something that you don't want to do. You can really know what you want to do when you get out of school. That opened my eyes a lot.
"Also the players and coaches, and Mike [McCray] had a big influence and my dad. He wanted me to go as soon as I got the offer, but I wanted to wait and see my other options and talk to some other people before I made my decision."
His teammate at Trotwood, and soon to be teammate at Michigan, Mike McCray was a big influence. The four-star linebacker was a constant presence in Dawson's ear about the benefits of joining the Maize and Blue. Of course, Trotwood-Madison's roster is as loaded as usual, so there was an Illinois influence as well in the form of three-star defensive end Jarrod "Chunky" Clements.
"It was a battle every day in class between Chunky and Mike," Dawson said with a laugh. "I have pre-calc with Chunky, and I have AP English with Mike and I hear it all the time from both of them. Chunky was still just was telling me to do what's in my best interests, but at the same time, they were each telling me stay and go, so I had to do what's right for me."
At Michigan, his 6-2 frame will be used at the cornerback position. Even though he's currently tipping the scales at a lanky 170 pounds, his length gives him the ability to make an impact in Michigan's defensive schemes. The Wolverines' coaching staff has shown that they're in search of taller corners, and they have found their man in Dawson.
"They were preaching to me length and my speed," the prospect explained. "There's not a lot of tall corners out there, and they said that they liked my length. I looked at my highlight tape with the DB coach [Curt Mallory], and were going over stuff that I need to work on, and stuff I did well. Just basically me developing as a player. We looked at all of that, but mainly they like my length and the way I use my body, like my long arms to get a jam on bigger and shorter receivers."
Trotwood-Madison's tradition of excellence on the gridiron under coach Maurice Douglass player no small role in making Dawson the player he is today. He has tasted the sweetness of victory, and also the bitterness of defeat in the State Championship game. The Rams finished one game short this fall and in 2010, but capped an undefeated season with a title in 2011.
"That just makes me want to work even that much harder, because I know what it's like to lose," Dawson said. "I know both sides of it, and I don't like the feeling. I experienced that feeling twice, and I experienced the great feeling of winning the championship once.
"Now I have that eager feeling and I'm willing to do anything it takes in order to be successful. I'm going to take that to Michigan to see how far it goes. I know I was going to work hard regardless, no matter what school I went to, I'm just going to work that much harder because I know what being on that championship team is like and the joy that comes along with it."