William "Red" Dawson

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William "Red" Dawson
No. 83
Born: (1942-12-04) December 4, 1942 (age 76)
Valdosta, Georgia
Career information
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight240 lb (110 kg)
CollegeFlorida State
Career history
As coach
1968–1970Marshall (Defensive Coordinator)
1970–1971Marshall (acting head coach)[1]
1971Marshall (Defensive Coordinator)
As player
1965Boston Patriots
1966Orlando Panthers[2]

William Alfred "Red" Dawson[3] (born December 4, 1942) is a former American football player and assistant coach for Marshall University. He was nicknamed "Red" for his red hair.

Playing career[edit]

The Valdosta, Georgia native attended Florida State University and was an All-American at both tight end and defensive end. He was drafted by both the Los Angeles Rams (12th round, 161st overall) and Boston Patriots (19th round, 148th overall), but signed with the Patriots. He played nine games for Boston before being released on November 10, 1965.[4]

In 1966, Dawson played for the Orlando Panthers of the Continental Football League.[2]

Coaching career[edit]

In 1968, Dawson was hired by new Marshall head coach Perry Moss as receivers coach. Dawson had previously played for Moss as a member of the Orlando Panthers.[5] After the season, which saw the Thundering Herd post a 0–9–1 record, allegations of rules violations and broken promises came to light and were proven true. Ultimately Marshall was found guilty of over 100 National Collegiate Athletic Association rules violations and was later expelled from the Mid-American Conference. Moss was fired, and former assistant Rick Tolley was named his successor.

On November 14, 1970 the Thundering Herd traveled to Kinston, North Carolina via a Douglas DC-9 chartered to take the team, coaches, school officials, and boosters to the game against the East Carolina Pirates and back home. The Herd lost, 17–14, on a controversial intentional grounding call against quarterback Ted Shoebridge on the last play of the game. En route back to Huntington, West Virginia, Southern Airways Flight 932 clipped some trees on approach to Tri-State Airport, and the plane crashed nearly vertically into a ravine short of the runway. All 75 people on board were killed, including 37 players and five of the eight coaches of the team.

Dawson was one of the few members of the team who was not on the plane; he and coach Gail Parker were on a pre-planned recruiting trip to see a linebacker named Billy Joe Mantooth at Ferrum Junior College in Ferrum, Virginia.[6] Dawson had driven to the East Carolina game and was to drive to Ferrum from Greenville at the game's conclusion. However, en route, Dawson and Parker heard about the crash on the radio. Mantooth eventually signed with West Virginia University.

After the crash and the funerals and memorials for the dead, Marshall University decided to rebuild a football team. Dawson was named acting head coach until Jack Lengyel was hired as head coach on St. Patrick's Day, 1971. Lengyel persuaded Dawson to stay on as an assistant. The 1971 season, in which the Thundering Herd won two emotional home games, was Dawson's last full season. Dawson resigned in the fall of 1972 and never returned to coaching. In the years since he has been suffering from "survivor guilt".[6]

Red Dawson was portrayed by Matthew Fox in the 2006 Warner Bros. motion picture We Are Marshall.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dawson has tough job; rebuild Marshall squad". The Bulletin. November 19, 1970. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Orlando Wins Rifles Beaten". The Montreal Gazette. November 28, 1966. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  3. ^ "Dawson's ties to MU still run deep – Sports". Media.www.marshallparthenon.com. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Miexler Signed, Dawson Released". Los Angeles Times. November 11, 1965.
  5. ^ Jack Edger (August 4, 1966). "Inside Edge". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Soul survivor – College Football – Rivals.com". Sports.yahoo.com. May 2, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
  7. ^ "Red Dawson - Memorial of the 1970 Marshall University Football Team Plane Crash - November 14, 1970 ... Remembered". Marshall.edu. November 14, 1970. Retrieved May 22, 2011.