It was quite the introduction for the defensive back from Cross City. After enrolling early at the University of Florida to begin his Gator career a semester early, Duke Dawson earned the trust of the coaching staff and playing time in the season opener against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
Dawson intercepted a pass and took it 36-yards for a score. It was the first time a Florida Gators true freshman had returned an interception for a touchdown since De’Ante Saunders did it against the Furman Paladins in 2011.
Like that, the young player from just about an hour away from Gainesville had introduced himself to Gator Nation.
2014 season stats: 14 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception, 1 pass breakup
Dawson played in 11 games as a freshman, including one start at safety. Dawson had played both cornerback and safety in high school and when he arrived at Florida he continued working at both positions in the spring. As the season went on the need for safety became more pressing than cornerback and Dawson moved to the backend of the defense.
Dawson remained at safety this spring when Defensive Coordinator Geoff Collins took over the defense and he was used as a backup to Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal in base packages and heavily when Florida would go into nickel and dime sets.
Dawson will be a key contributor on special teams in 2014 and will continue to earn playing time on defense, working into the rotation in the secondary.