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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 16 Mike Dawson

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Defensive tackle, 1972-75

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a second-team AP All-American in 1975. … Was a first-team All-WAC selection as a junior and senior. … Led the Wildcats in tackles for a loss for three consecutive seasons, with a total of 37 from 1973 to 1975.

Why he made our list: Dawson, after leading Tucson High to state titles in 1970 and 1971, became the defensive heart of the Jim Young-coached teams from 1973-75. The Wildcats went 26-7 in those seasons, the best three-year mark in school history.

“He was the cornerstone,” Young said in 2008. “He was just a guy I really admired. He never had much to say, but he really performed and was exceptionally strong. He really came through.”

Dawson lived up to the promise of his high school career. He and Tucson High teammate Marvin Lewis, a linebacker, were the first Parade All-Americans in Tucson high school history.

But Dawson’s UA career was nearly short, as he threatened to quit the team after his freshman season because of the ineffectiveness of coach Bob Weber. Dawson’s position coach, Sharkey Price, convinced him to stay after Young was hired. Dawson immediately took to Young’s discipline and winning attitude, and Price stayed on to mentor his star pupil.

“When I think of Sharkey Price, I think of Mike,” Young said. “Sharkey was a great coach, and he really worked with Mike. Mike was his boy.”

Life after college: Dawson played in nine NFL seasons after being a first-round pick, No. 22 overall, of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976. He started 84 of 88 games in which he played for the Cardinals for seven seasons before being traded to Detroit. He spent a year with the Lions before playing with Kansas City in the 1984 season.

Dawson last played in 1984 but was on injured reserve for part of the next season and went to camp with the Lions in 1986, giving him a total of 10 years of NFL tenure — one of the benchmarks for inclusion in the Ring of Honor at Arizona Stadium.

After his playing days, Dawson co-owned a sports bar in Tucson — the Sports Page Lounge — and was an assistant coach at three high schools. He died in March 2008 of a heart attack. He was 54.

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.

Arizona’s top 50

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

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