Colts Players, Head Coach Jim Caldwell Discuss Imance of Fathers on Their Day
INDIANAPOLIS – Keyunta Dawson counts himself among the lucky.
Dawson, a fourth-year veteran defensive end for the Colts, said the good fortune is not that he is in the NFL – though without that good fortune, he's not sure he would be a professional football player.
No, Dawson said his good fortune is this:
He had a strong spiritual leader growing up, someone to whom he could look to pattern himself after, and someone who could provide guidance, and Dawson said what was most important was this:
It was his father, Wilbur Dawson.
"I wouldn't be where I am without him," Dawson said recently during the Colts' organized team activities sessions, which concluded earlier this month at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Before OTAs ended, Colts.com spoke with Colts players and Head Coach Jim Caldwell about the importance of fathers – and the importance of Sunday, Father's Day.
Many Colts players were close to their fathers, and those who were spoke of the importance of a solid presence in their life, a guiding presence and someone after whom to model themselves.
Jim Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, is nearly three decades Dawson's senior, but he said he has a similar story. The elder Caldwell was not Caldwell's pastor, but for guidance and knowing wrong from right, Caldwell said he had no problem finding a model.
"The great thing was I didn't have to look outside the home to identify my hero," Caldwell said. "My hero was my Dad – is, I should say. He's certainly still with us.
"He was a hard-working guy. He was extremely determined, extremely resourceful."
Caldwell, who played collegiately at Iowa before beginning a coaching career that has spanned three and a half decades, carries himself with a relatively reserved, serious demeanor.
That's not coincidental, he said, but he said while his father was serious he also taught him more, particularly how to compete.
"He was very serious," Caldwell said. "I'm sure that's probably where I get my seriousness from. But he's also a guy who had great compassion and was a great competitor, too."
Caldwell's father, Willie, and his mother, Mary, raised Jim, his brother and sister in Beloit, Wis., and did so in what Caldwell has described as a goal-oriented household.
"My parents taught us to always believe, and never let anyone tell you that you cannot be exactly what you want to be and accomplish what you want to accomplish – if you seriously believe it and act upon it," he said while coaching at Wake Forest from 1993-2000. "They instilled discipline, poise, character and, most of all, the knowledge that the mark of a true leader is a man who can lead himself."
Caldwell said his father, because he married and had children young, was close enough in age to his children to be more than a spiritual leader, model and advisor.
He also could, in many situations, be a teammate and/or opponent.
"My mom and dad had us when they were fairly young," Caldwell said. "They got married at 18, had my sister at 20. When I was 10, my dad was 32. My dad could still run and jump. He played ball with us and we literally grew up together in a sense, because he was still very, very active in our lives."
And while no longer playing one on one with his NFL head coaching son, Caldwell said fitness still matters to Willie Caldwell.
"He still gets up and works out in the morning – he and my mother both," Caldwell said.
When the Colts selected defensive end Jerry Hughes in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Hughes was accompanied to Indianapolis the following day by his mother, Pam, and father, Jerry Hughes, Sr. Hughes said his father's influence started well before the draft, and well before he became one of the top sack specialists in college football the last two seasons.
"It was important for me to have that father figure, somebody who was kind of a role model," Hughes said. "I could model myself after him seeing the way he carried himself amongst the world. Those are things I've kind of idolized and I've done my best to follow in his footsteps."
And Hughes said while his father encouraged him in football, and while he sought counsel with his father on football decisions, the influence stretched beyond athletics.
"I felt like as a kid, every day I always saw something new and saw something different that my Dad did," Hughes said. "I think about it a lot, how he did all he could for me and supported me and was behind me 100 percent."
Such was the case in the Dawson household, too, Dawson said, where the man he was closest to growing up also was an ideal model.
"He was my best friend," Dawson said. "He's an example to me, of how to be a man. He taught me how to get up every morning and go to work, and fight hard for what you believe in.
"He's also my pastor, too, so he was my spiritual leader of the house. He's a strong leader of the house. He's just a great guy and he's an example of how to be a man."