Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Browns.

Lake Highlands High School graduate Phil Dawson has been named a Browns Legend by the Cleveland Browns football organization. He’ll be honored at halftime Sept. 22 when the team hosts the New York Giants.

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Dawson had been planning to play linebacker for the Wildcats, but he signed up for a summer camp led by NFL kicker Ben Agajanian just before his freshman year. He hit a 49-yarder for the varsity, and his future was sealed. He later kicked a 53-yarder against Richardson High for the district championship and another to beat Nacogdoches in a third-round playoff game.

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.

Dawson played 20 NFL seasons from 1999 to 2018 and ranks among the all-time NFL leaders in games played (seventh with 305), field goals made (eights with 441), points scored (11th with 1,847) and field goal percentage (16th with 83.8).

“I had a very kind of a boutique role on the team,” Dawson shared on the Browns website. “I got a handful of plays a game. It was an opportunity for me to go on the field and help my team. I wanted to be a guy that could be counted on at any moment, at any time, to do his job. And so, I really took a great deal of satisfaction — whether it was a long game winner that everyone remembers, or a nothing burger of a kick early in the game that really didn’t have an impact on the outcome — I’ve looked back really fondly on just knowing I was able to do my job meant a lot to me.”

Dawson provided plenty of heart-stopping moments.

In 2007, he attempted a 51-yard field goal against the Ravens, and officials deemed it no good. After they took a second look, though, they overruled the call, and the game went into overtime. Dawson later won the game 33-30 on another field goal.

In 2008, the Browns were playing the Bills on Monday Night Football. Dawson hit a 56-yarder with fewer than two minutes to go to claim the victory.

Dawson now lives in Austin with his wife, Shannon, and their three children, but while they were in Cleveland, he was often honored for his work in the community. He won the Dino Lucarelli “Good Guy” Award and was voted Browns Player of the Year by the local Pro Football Writers of America chapter. He received the Doug Dieken Humanitarian Award for his charitable and community efforts and the Ed Block Courage Award from his teammates.

“I was very fortunate that I had a long run in one place,” Dawson said. “A lot of guys in the league these days don’t have that. So, because of my 14 years there, I was really able to build relationships and develop a love for the city of Cleveland. It became a home for my family. We were plugged in. And so, as I look back on the whole thing, just the relationships I was able to build and then my love for the city — I really felt a connection with the people of Cleveland. I was one of them. It was my home. And I was very fortunate to be able to be in one place long enough for those things to happen.”

Dawson now works as head football coach and athletic director for the Hyde Park Panthers in Austin, Texas. Congratulations, Phil Dawson!