Recently I was able to speak with former Pittsburgh Steelers’ center Dermontti Dawson, who played in the league for 13 seasons.
Dawson, one of the 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH for 2012, played his entire career in Pittsburgh and was named to seven Pro Bowls and six All Pro teams and was one of the most reliable pieces in Pitt’s offensive line–started all 16 games in 10 consecutive seasons from 1989-98.
Below are the questions I asked him, and his answers, from our phone conversation…
All-Out Blitz: I’ll start by talking about the site, Schoolofthelegends.com. It’s a great way for fans and players (past and present) to keep in touch with one another. What has been the biggest upside in joining the site, and where do you see it going in the future? Do you have any ideas of how they can improve the site and add to the experience?
Dermontti Dawson: The School of the Legends website is a great tool for current and former players to connect with one another and also interact with the fans. The upside of the site is staying in touch with former players and helping the fans connect with there favorite player’s. The fans are who make the NFL what it is today. I see the SOTL website growing just like Facebook in the near future. I’m not sure how they can improve the site at this time.
AOB: You were the anchor of Pittsburgh’s offensive line throughout the ’90s, starting every game for 10 straight seasons. What was your secret for staying healthy and consistent at such a high level of play for so long?
DD: I think the secret to a long and productive career is attitude. No matter what you accomplish each year, whether it be a team goal or a personal goal, you still have to have that internal drive to get better each and every year. That also means taking care of your body and making sure you keep it in prime condition through out the entire season and off-season.
AOB: You were a Hall of Fame semi-finalist in 2008 and 2009, a finalist this year, and are expected to eventually get a call from the hall. Do you think your playing career would be complete if you were inducted, even though you weren’t able to get a ring?
DD: My career has been more than fulfilling without winning a ring. I have accomplished more than I could ever imagined. Being selected into the HOF would be the ultimate accomplishment because it immortalizes you as one of the greatest players to play in the NFL. My career is validation to me and those who know the game of football.
AOB: You were selected to seven Pro Bowls throughout your career…did the trip to Hawaii get better and better each time, or did they all feel the same?
DD: The trips to the Pro-Bowl in Hawaii got better and better each year. The NFL tried to have different events and excursions each year to keep it fresh for the players and there families. Hawaii and the Pro-Bowl never got old!
AOB: What was the hardest thing, for you personally, in adjusting from college ball (at Kentucky) to the pro level?
DD: The biggest adjustment I had to make form college to the pros, was the mental part of the game. The physical part is the easy part, but knowing that it was a privilege to play and you don’t take it for granted. Knowing that you were evaluated each and everyday and if you were not playing well you could lose your job. Mental toughness was key to my success and longevity in the NFL.
AOB: Do you have any favorite teams or players in the league today?
DD: The Steelers are always going to be my favorite team! I’m Black and Gold for life. I really don’t follow a certain player on any team.
AOB: Who do you have in the Super Bowl?
DD: Before Sunday’s loss I had Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. But I can see the Packers in the Super Bowl!
AOB: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Dawson.
Photo found on Google, no copyright infringement intended
*Note: This was the fourth player/coach interview I’ve been fortunate enough to conduct via phone or email. The others–Todd Washington, Steve Atwater and Larry Allen–can be found in the blog archives. There will likely be more coming in the future, so keep on the lookout. Thanks.