I pride myself in knowing some facts and figures about the history of the game, and I love to read about previous NFL drafts and then track who made it to the Hall of Fame and who crashed and burned once they turned pro.
I also pride myself in being born and bred (up to the age of 18) in the town of Dorking in Surrey. Famous for its antique shops, for Box Hill (where the 2012 Olympic cycling road race came through) and even a five-toed cockerel, Dorking has a rich history that dates back to the Domesday book.
I was in fact named Lawrence, in part, due to another Dorking born namesake, classic actor Laurence Olivier.
Now having loved american football since I was 11 (in 1985) I am ashamed to say that it took until August 2013 to realise that a first round NFL draft pick was actually born in Dorking on October 15 1953.
Just yesterday I was at my local retail park and I popped into the newsagent WHSmiths with my usual blind optimism that I would find an NFL publication on the sports shelf, something that has not materialised for many many years for me. So when I spotted an american football preview magazine hidden amongst Carp World and WWE magazine I was stunned to say the least.
I whipped it off the shelf and immediately saw that the three cover stars of the Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Preview 2013 magazine were Ben Roethlisberger, Adrian Petersen and Colin Kaepernick, the three biggest named superstars heading to play in London in September and October this year in some NFL games that actually count.
Eager to get tucked into the team previews I spotted a feature article about Brits who had played in the NFL. Now I knew about some of the names already, the likes of two-time Super Bowl winners Lawrence Tynes (from Scotland) and Osi Umenyora (born to a military family in England), former lily-white kickers John Smith (Patriots) and Mick Luckhurst (Falcons) and Scott McCready who was a former Patriots wideout and the first British born player to win a Super Bowl ring (with the Patriots).
I also knew about the current Brits in the NFL from Jack Crawford and Menelik Watson (both Oakland Raiders) to undrafted free agent Lawrence Okoye (49ers).
What stunned me was that 36 British born players have started in the NFL, and many of them I did not recognise by name. What blew me off my chair was that one of these English born NFL players was born in my home town of Dorking, Surrey and I had no idea.
That person was former Arizona University defensive lineman Mike Dawson, drafted 22nd overall in the 1976 NFL draft by the St Louis Cardinals. Dawson played nine seasons in the NFL, including stints for the Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs, making 91 starts in 113 games. As sacks were only officially recorded from 1982 Dawson is only accredited with 5.5 in his career but I am pretty confident he had many more.
I am sad to report that Dawson died in 2008 aged just 54, passing away from a suspected heart attack. Turns out he was a highly decorated player, having won two state championships for Tuscon High School in Arizona (1971-2) and gaining Parade All-American status. He also is in the University of Arizona Hall of Fame and was a second Team All-American during his college career in the mid 70s.
Dawson played in one post-season game for the Cardinals in January 1983, a 41-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers in chilly Lambeau Field. Dawson’s team-mate on the day was running back Ottis Anderson, who went on to become a Super Bowl MVP in 1991 for the New York Giants.
Crazy fact about Dawson – he is listed at the 10th most popular person born in Dorking on the IMDB website, for his appearances as ‘himself’ in Monday Might Football contests in the 70s.
I am proud to say that my birth town is the same one as an NFL veteran, now I need to find out more about how he went from Dorking to Arizona. Not your typical bus ride in the leafy suburban world of sleepy Surrey.