MONTICELLO (WCIA) — As the Monticello Sages raised their trophy as state champions, Henry Dawson didn’t know it would be the last football game he would ever play in.
“It still hits me pretty hard, especially watching these guys play,” Dawson said. “But at least I can still walk and talk and do everything else.”
Dawson led his team with 11 tackles in the state title game but suffered a fractured vertebrae making a tackle late in the fourth quarter. Now, contact sports put the former linebacker at risk for more injuries, ending his wrestling and football careers.
“I don’t want to be paralyzed or have a spinal cord injury that would affect me for the rest of my life,” Dawson said. “It’s just not worth coming in and risking my life to play.”
While he can’t be out on the field anymore, that hasn’t stopped him from giving up on the sport. The senior still leads the team with their workouts, drills and anything else in between.
“You never like to see someone get that taken away from and it’s just a pleasure for us to keep having him around and be inspirational to our teammates,” Monticello head coach Cully Welter said.
“Spending three hours out here everyday, isn’t just so I can say that I did it,” Dawson said. “It’s so I can experience the teamwork and be a part of the team. See how the team comes along and have something to do that’s fun.”
Last season, Dawson led the Sages to the state finals with 121 tackles. He hopes to be back on the same stage this year, but this time he’ll be on the sideline, motivating his teammates to make the most of their time on the field. Friday night’s game against St. Thomas More will also be special for Dawson, as the Sages take the field at home for the first time since winning the state title last fall.