TOWNSEND — The call came in at 11:50 p.m. Friday night, three hours after North Middlesex Patriots basketball defeated Leominster in a barn-burner of a game. Mike Dawson without hesitation accepted the position when newly hired Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly came calling.
Kelly and Dawson have a strong friendship dating back to their days at the University of New Hampshire, where Dawson was an assistant. In 2006, Dawson left the Wildcats for Akron University when the linebacker coach position opened up.
“I am very grateful to Chip,” said a humbled Dawson. “I was surprised he thought of me, and I am just very excited for the opportunity. “I had no idea I was going to get the call. Chip and I have known each other for a while, but we didn’t have any prior conversations or anything like that. I am ready for the opportunity to get going.”
Dawson will have to pack quickly, as the Eagles are expecting him to be in the city of brotherly love by Wednesday. Dawson played as a 1991 North Middlesex graduate, and he went on to play linebacker collegiately at UMass. Dawson officially resigned as North Middlesex athletic director Saturday afternoon, and while he has gone to Pepperell schools all his life, he knows that this opportunity may only come once in a lifetime.
The call, while unexpected, was warranted, as Dawson brings a host of Division 1 college coaching experience to the table. Dawson served as a special teams coach at Boston College up until 2011 when he resigned to take the athletic director post at North Middlesex. Dawson never put in an application to be on Kelly’s Eagles coaching staff, he just made a lasting impression when he was at UNH.
Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Dawson will reunite with coaching mentors from his past in Jerry Azzinarro, Bill McGovern, with whom he worked with at Boston College, and former UNH assistant Sean McDonnell, who have all had a lasting impact on Dawson’s life.
“Jerry Azzinaro coached me in college and taught me a bunch of what I know about football,” said Dawson. “Sean McDonnel is a mentor of mine, and it is great that they will be on the staff working for Chip.”
Dawson has no idea what his official assignment will be, but no matter what it is, he will be ready. It might be drawing up the play-call board, it may be coaching linebackers. Dawson really will not know until Thursday.
“I need to get down there and get my orders from Chip. No task is too small, and I will do whatever it takes to make Chip and the Philadelphia Eagles successful. I will be on defensive controlled condition. I have no idea if I will be working with linebackers, special teams or what.”
In an interesting but welcome twist, Dawson’s wife and her entire family are Philadelphia natives, so it’s not like they’re being forced to move into unchartered waters.
“We really have loved our time in New England,” said Dawson. “My wife is a native of Philadelphia, and it will be a nice homecoming for her. Chip is a regular guy who has put his time in and worked hard. He is not afraid to take chances. It is going to be very exciting being a part of his staff.”