Duke of Florida: Senior thankful for opportunity

Florida senior defensive back Duke Dawson reflects on his career. [The Associated Press]

When senior defensive back Duke Dawson runs out of the tunnel Saturday to face Florida State, it will finally hit him that it’s his last game in the orange and blue.

Until then, Dawson isn’t thinking about the end of his UF career, but he’s certainly preparing. For the first time since he can remember Dawson has cut his hair close to his scalp, something he says “feels great,” but it wasn’t simply for comfort.

Dawson will no longer be a student-athlete, and until the NFL draft in April he’ll simply be an adult in society. So while he’s thought about his future over the past few weeks, he isn’t ready to focus on concluding his Florida career.

“I ain’t thought nothing about it yet. I’m trying to enjoy these last two practices with my boys,” Dawson said of concluding his UF career. “I’m going into the real world now. I’m about to become an adult. I have to have a clean look and that’s what I’ve been thinking about for the past two weeks. And as y’all can see (my hair) is gone.”

Although the thoughts and emotions will be seemingly impossible to avoid come Saturday, Dawson remains focused on a final accomplishment with the Gators: beating FSU for the first time in his UF career. The Seminoles have won four consecutive over their in-state rivals, matching the longest streak in the series’ history.

And, like Florida, FSU remains in the hunt for bowl eligibility, despite both teams sitting at 4-6 entering Saturday’s matchup. While Dawson certainly would like to secure that first win against FSU, subsequently putting the final nail in the Seminoles’ season, he’s approaching the match-up as if it were any other game.

In Dawson’s eyes the time for emotions, tears and farewells hasn’t arrived, so there’s no use dwelling on the near future. If anything, Dawson remains humbled at the opportunity he’s had to be successful at Florida.

“The opportunity that I had to come play here, that’s one thing I can say. Where I’m from, a lot of kids don’t really get that opportunity. But for me to have that opportunity, I’m blessed, so that’s one thing that I really take,” Dawson said. “It don’t really take anything else. No plays, anything like that, just the opportunity that I had to come here and play.”

Rather than reminisce on the wins and losses, or the departures and firings, Dawson believes his fondest memories will be of the people he’s met along the way, and the relationships he’ll have for the rest of his life. Because having your emotions and thoughts dictated by wins and losses isn’t what made Dawson fall in love with the sport that he hopes to soon play professionally.

“I feel like (I’ll remember most) just hanging out with my boys. Just having that brotherhood, some of the connections like I had here,” Dawson said. “Some of these guys, they’re going to be my best friends from God knows when to the end of it.”

Twenty Florida players will take part in Senior Day festivities on Saturday prior to the game. Florida’s seniors have been a part of two SEC Eastern Division titles, and compiled a 30-19 (.612) record including a 20-12 (.625) mark in SEC play. Senior Day ceremonies are set to begin at 11:50 a.m.

The departing seniors: Marcel Benalcazar, Duke Dawson, Luke Del Rio, Brian Fallace, Ryan Ferguson, Cristian Garcia, Eddie Giles, DeAndre Goolsby, Marcell Harris, Jacob Mesenger, Brandon Powell, R.J. Raymond, Antonio Riles, Jordan Sherit, Garrett Stephens, Mark Thompson, Cameron Town, Johnny Townsend, Nick Washington, Malik Zaire.


Who: Florida State (4-6) vs. Florida (4-6)

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Florida Field


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. I believe Duke is from Cocoa – this is where I now live, though I grew up in Gainesville (I work in Orlando). The greatest gift that DD and the other Gator seniors can give each other and give to Florida fans is a win over FSU. GO GATORS!!!