Shannon Dawson: Still throwing it around the yard
Shannon Dawson played at Silliman Institute for coach Marvin Holland from 1992 to 1996, where he was quarterback and led the wildcats to three state semifinal appearances while also competing in basketball, baseball and track. After graduating from Silliman, Dawson went on to play quarterback at Mississippi College and Wingate University in North Carolina
From there, Dawson has coached all over the country and successfully transitioned from throwing the ball to telling others when and where to throw the ball with precision. He also learned some valuable lessons on developing thick skin and a humble attitude while traversing across the country honing his coaching skills.
“It’s like politics: Half the people love you, and half the people hate you," Dawson said of his coaching experiences said. "I don’t listen to the critics. The truth is somewhere in the middle. You’re never as good as some say, and you’re not as bad as the others say.”
Dawson began his coaching career as a wide receiver coach at Wingate in 2002, where he played for Dana Holgorsen, one of his mentors. He moved back to Louisiana in 2003 to help revive the Southeastern Louisiana University program that had been dormant for 17 years.
From Southeastern, Dawson moved on to New Mexico State for a season. He then took the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach position at Millsaps College for two years, where his teams won the first back-to-back Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference titles in school history.
His success earned him the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach titles at Stephen F. Austin University. He then moved to West Virginia to reunite with Dana Holgorsen for four years, including his last three as offensive coordinator. In his last season at West Virginia, the offense ranked 12th in the nation in total offense, averaged 499.8 yards per game and was ninth nationally in passing offense. The Mountaineers tallied 33.5 points per game and set a school record by scoring at least 30 points in eight consecutive games.
Dawson credits the prolific success of his offenses to “an ability to keep constant pressure on the defense in both the run and pass game.” No game was this more apparent than the 2012 Orange Bowl, one of Dawson’s favorite coaching memories, where West Virginia hung 70 points on Clemson in a 70-33 win, breaking or tying eight team and individual bowl game records, gaining 589 yards of total offense and securing 31 first downs.
From West Virginia, he moved to Kentucky for one year and then moved closer to home as the offensive coordinator at USM in 2016. The 2018 campaign will be his third as the offensive coordinator in Hattiesburg. The upcoming football season has Dawson optimistic.
“We have been close to winning the conference title the last two years," he said. "I feel like this year we have a great opportunity.”
The Golden Eagles are led by head coach Jay Hopson, a man Dawson holds in high regard. “Jay is a great spiritual guy as well as coach that has beaten cancer twice, is tough and a great guy to work for.”
Offensively, Dawson anticipates the 2018 Golden Eagles will be explosive with speed at the skill positions and “a great quarterback battle that should be a fun competition.” Dawson has a hard time describing his offense and what differentiates his version of the spread from the offense that many other team operate.
“We will be fast at times and more methodical at times," he said. "We are running the ball more than I did as a young OC. I hope that we are explosive with big plays.” On the USM defensive outlook for 2018, “USM has been built on defense and they will be very good this year.”
Dawson met his wife Chelsea when he was at West Virginia, and they have two daughters, Baker, 2, and Acelyn, 3.
“I try not to be selfish with my free time, and I try to give them every minute of it. If I am not at work, I am with them," Dawson said. "Time is the most important think I can give them.”
Though on the road, Dawson is never too far away from Bluff Creek, Clinton, or Jackson, where his brother Ryan and his family, mother Carlette, father Ricky, and most of the Bunch and Dawson families live.
He credits his wife with doing all the hard work such as picking houses and getting them moved along their journey. Despite all his coaching travels, Dawson said he has no regrets.
“I learned as much from bad as I have from good, all part of the journey. The Kentucky job brought me to USM — closer to family.”