Phil Dawson. Photo courtesy of NCAA.

Lake Highlands High grad Phil Dawson has earned the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award. The honor recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletic careers.

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Dawson was a four-year starter and two-time All-American at the University of Texas, and he was twice named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best college kicker. He helped lead the Longhorns to three conference titles and finished his college career with 13 school records, including points scored (339), field goals (59) and field goal accuracy (74.7%). He hit 15 straight field goals (1996-97), scored 54 straight points (1994-95) and made 6 straight field goals from 50 or more yards.

During his 21 years in the NFL, Dawson became one of the most consistent kickers in league history. He went on to break Lou Groza’s record for most field goals by a Cleveland Brown (305), and Dawson still holds team records for most consecutive field goals made (27) and most field goals scored in a game (6).

Silver Anniversary Awardees are honored for their collegiate and professional achievements, and 2023 recipients include Harvard basketball player Allison Feaster, now working for the Boston Celtics and promoting social justice, NYU basketball player Dr. Marsha Harris, now specializing in robotic surgery for colon and rectal cancer, USC swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg, board member of a rescue aid and education organization serving children in Ukraine, and Notre Dame soccer player Kate Markgraf, first general manager of the U.S. women’s national team. Oh, and Peyton Manning.

A year ago, Dawson moved back to Texas to serve as head football coach and assistant athletic director for Hyde Park School in Austin. He inherited an 0-10 team with three wins over four seasons. After first boosting the roster from 27 to 70, he led the squad to an 8-2 record and a trip to the playoffs.

“To win eight games in year one was great for the community, and we should do better,” Dawson told the Akron Beacon Journal. “There’s some pretty good buzz around town. We know we’re never going to compete with the big boys, and that’s fine. But I tell the players to embrace the team role, because I made my career out of just six to seven plays a game.”

Dawson began his high school football career as a linebacker, with kicking as more of a side gig. He says praise by an NFL kicker – and an amazing freshman field goal – convinced him to switch his focus.

“I stumbled into it. I never wanted to be a kicker,” Dawson told the Austin American-Statesman.

Just before Dawson’s freshman year began, he attended a summer camp led by NFL kicker Ben Agajanian. Playing for the Wildcats that fall, he hit a 49-yarder for the varsity. He later kicked a 53-yarder against Richardson for the district championship and another to win a third-round playoff game against Nacogdoches. He was hooked.

You can catch some highlights of Dawson’s NCAA career below.