In the mid-1960s, Scott Dawson had no idea that he would be a part of Virginia Tech history. In fact, he had no idea that he would even be a part of Virginia Tech.
"I knew all my life that I was going to Auburn," he said.
Most of the players at his Fort Walton Beach, Florida, high school went to Auburn. But the school hired a new football coach for Dawson's senior season, and the coach was a University of Florida fan. So much so that he refused to let other recruiters into the school. The University of Florida already had a player locked into Dawson's position, so Dawson ended up at Tech after then assistant Bobby Collins lured him up for a visit.
The move worked out rather nicely for Dawson, who got a civil engineering degree, played on the school's second ever bowl squad and played for the first team ever to play a game at Lane Stadium. The latter happened in 1965, as Inside Hokie Sports continues to celebrate the 50th season of Lane Stadium by spotlighting various players on the 1965 team.
Dawson, mostly a long snapper on that 1965 squad, readily admitted that he didn't remember the details of events that occurred 50 years ago. He does remember that the Gobblers played William & Mary in that first game at Lane Stadium and won, and he remembers the new stadium.
"It was exciting to be in the new stadium. I do remember that," he said. "It was all new to us. If I'm not mistaken, we had a decent crowd. That always helped when you played. At that point in time, at that age, it was just another game to try and win."
Dawson's fondest memory of his playing days came during his junior season. The Gobblers rolled to an 8-1-1 record in the regular season. They lost the season opener at Tulane, but then didn't lose again in the regular season, winning seven straight after tying West Virginia at Lane Stadium -- the first ever tie at Lane.
At the end of the regular season, the Gobblers received a bowl bid -- the second in program history. Liberty Bowl officials invited Tech to play against then-No. 9 Miami on Dec. 10 in Memphis. Dawson remembers the day the bid wasannounced. It happened to cut short his honeymoon.
"I remember it well," he said. "My wife and I were married in the memorial chapel [on the Drillfield]. We were married on Friday, and then we found out Sunday that we were in abowl game and I was practicing that Monday afternoon. But just having that opportunity ... Virginia Tech didn't go to bowls then. That was just unheard of in those days."
The Gobblers went 7-3 in Dawson's senior year, but three straight losses to end the season probably prevented them from getting a bowl bid. The next spring, in 1968, Dawson graduated with a degree in civil engineering.
He worked a short stint with the Corps of Engineers before returning to college, working as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech and using the G.I. Bill to get his master's degree in civil engineering and construction management. Once he got his master's degree in 1972, he went back to work for the Corps of Engineers in Charlottesville. While there, he got introduced to what would become a new passion -- officiating.
"I really went into officiating because I wanted to stay in the game," he said. "Up there, I met up with some people I knew, and they suggested I get into officiating. So I started Saturday mornings with Little League football -- my worst nightmare with parents. You'd do three or four games for $25 a game. It was great income at that time."
Dawson gradually worked his way up the ranks, while also continuing a career in engineering. In 1977, the Atlantic Coast Conference hired him as an official, and he worked nearly two decades and in 11 bowl games.
"My last game in college was the Rose Bowl -- the year Penn State played in the Rose Bowl [in 1995]," Dawson said. "What an experience that was. I didn't even know the ACC had been assigned that bowl. But I got a call, and we had been assigned that game. It was quite a place for someone coming from a small school to see that atmosphere."
Dawson went from the ACC to the NFL, though it took a while for him to get into professional football. A friend and fellow official named Gerald Austin told him that he should apply, and Dawson eventually did. Three years after applying, he received an offer to go officiate in the World League (later renamed NFL Europe) over in Europe.
"I went over there for two years and did the World Bowl one year, which is like the Super Bowl," he said. "When I finished that year, I got invited in [to the NFL]. A lot of guys did the World League and didn't get invited into the NFL."
Dawson went on to officiate in the NFL for 19 years. He officiated playoff games, conference championship games and Pro Bowls. But he never got to officiate in the Super Bowl.
He retired after this past season with a lifetime of memories. One of the best came in the 2004 AFC Championship Game between New England and Indianapolis, with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning going at it. New England won the game and went on to win the Super Bowl.
"If you flew your flag, you better have something dead on," Dawson said. "You weren't going to have something that would influence the game. That's what we did it for -- to have those kinds of games. They didn't want to have a penalty, and we didn't want to have to call one, but you had to be ready."
Some of his memories of his NFL days were not so fond. As an umpire, he found himself in the middle of the action, and in one game at Miami, two defensive backs hit him as they chased two tight ends coming across the middle. They knocked out Dawson, who also lost two teeth and had several broken ribs. He left the game -- the only time in his career that he did so -- and wound up in the hospital.
"That was the worst accident I had throughout all the years," he said. "They put the umpire in the offensive backfield after a while because it was getting to be pretty bad. But I still loved it. It was a great experience."
During his career in engineering, Dawson and his family moved around quite a bit. He worked in Charlottesville; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Appomattox, Virginia, where he worked for longtime Tech supporter Bill Jamerson.
Dawson left Appomattox for Raleigh, North Carolina, where he had stints with two different companies. Before joining the NFL ranks as an official, he started his own company out of his dining room, one called Engineered Construction Company. Today, he and his oldest son run the company, and they specialize mostly in nursing homes and repeat business for past clients.
Though he has retired from officiating, Dawson harbors no such plans of doing so with his current job. "I'm not retiring. I still enjoy the construction end of it," he said. "Most of what we do, I enjoy. It's a challenge right now in this market. "But that's probably where Jerry Claiborne still comes into play. He would tell me to meet the challenge and go the extra mile."
Dawson and his wife of 49 years, Cheryl, have two sons -- the other works in Boston for a pharmaceutical company -- and three granddaughters. He said they don't get back to Blacksburg as much as he'd like. Of course, that doesn't mean that he doesn't keep up with the Hokies. After all, destiny took him from Auburn to Blacksburg nearly 55 years ago. Suffice it to say, things have worked out well ever since.
By Jimmy Robertson