Dermontti Dawson redefined the way center is played in the National Football League, and that’s why he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
Dawson, along with Jack Butler, became the latest Steelers inducted into the Hall of Fame, with a Pittsburgh crowd on hand to cheer him on.
“I am almost at a loss for words being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Dawson. “This is an incredible honor and I feel very privileged and humbled. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be standing here before you on this stage in Canton, Ohio among all of these great players.”
Dawson thanked all of those that played a role in his Hall of Fame career, showing his appreciation for everyone involved.
“Very few things in life are entirely the work of just one person and this is no exception, so I must pay tribute to the enormous contributions made by my parents, family, coaches, teachers, fans and the Steelers organization without which none of this would be possible and I wouldn’t be standing in front of you here today,” said Dawon.
Dawson, whose two children Brianna and Brandon were in the front row, shared a message for kid’s watching, a message he shares with his own children.
“Do everything with a purpose,” said Dawson. “Live, act, play, work with a purpose, with a passion and most importantly with honor. I am thankful to those who ignited that fire for me in my youth and stoked it year after year.”
Dawson thanked his high school coach and presenter, Steve Parker from Bryan Station High School in Lexington, Kentucky, who encouraged him to go out for the football team, getting his career started.
Dawson was drafted by the Steelers in the second round in 1988 from Kentucky. He played his entire 13-year career with the Steelers, and he took over for Mike Webster at center in his second season and remained a dominant force at the position throughout his career.
Dawson thanked those who influenced his Steelers career, particularly those on the coaching staff, including his two head coaches, Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher.
“Thank you to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and the Rooney family for all you have done for me throughout my career and the contributions to the Pittsburgh community and the NFL itself,” said Dawson. “I had the pleasure of being coached by Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Noll and soon to be Hall of Famer Coach Bill Cowher. I believe I would not be here today and have achieved the level of success I did if he hadn’t been for the trust of two men, Coach Bill Cowher and offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt. These two men had the trust and confidence in me to make adjustments to defenses and pull from the offensive center position. At that time this was not done on a regular basis or at all in the NFL.”
Dawson also paid tribute to his teammates, those who lined up with him on the offensive line and in particular Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who Dawson took over for in his second season.
“I would like to say thank you to my teammates and my o-line fraternity,” said Dawson. “It would not have been possible without you. I would like to point out one teammate in particular, and that is the great ‘Iron’ Mike Webster. Mike taught me how to be a true professional whether he knew it or not. I used to observe Mike each day and saw how he approached every aspect of the game. He was the first in the weight room in the morning, first in meetings, and he wrote every word down the coach said. Mike was a leader whether he wanted to or not because he led by example. I tried to emulate everything Mike did. Mike had a profound impact on my life and even today I try to lead by example and be like Mike.
“Thank you my friend for playing and living with honor. We miss you.”
Before he finished, Dawson thanked those who cheered for him his entire career – the Steelers fans.
“I take great pride representing the Steelers and the great tradition and the high standards,” said Dawson. “Being a Steeler meant being a blue-collar worker with an unwavering commitment to excellence. That is what being a Steeler meant to me. I hope I made the Steelers Nation proud.
“Thank you to the fans, because you guys are what this game is all about. Thank you for your years of support and the dedication you showed to the Steelers organization and the NFL. Thank you because without you there is no NFL.”