While most seniors or graduate students have tried to set up their jobs post-commencement, Alexander Dawson ’15, MBA ’16 has never tried to be like the typical college student.
After five years with the Elon University football team — four years of undergrad, and a year getting his MBA — Dawson is ready to move on to his next phase of life.
But, right now, he has no idea what he’s doing next.
“I’ll say, ‘Well, I could start working right now and start building my wealth and see what I can do,’” Dawson said. “But at the same time, I think there’s a lot of value in taking my time and really feeling out the things I’m really interested in. I don’t want to rush into a career path.”
Instead, Dawson has left every door wide open, exploring each of them thoroughly now before having to make a decision. He’s been able to get his graduate school degree because of a medical redshirt in 2012, giving him an extra year of eligibility.
Back in 2010, head coach Rich Skrosky was still in his first stint at Elon, and his area of recruiting was the local schools. Dawson was at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane, and Skrosky had known him since the 10th grade.
Skrosky left with then-head coach Pete Lembo to go to Ball State University, and the whole staff departed from Elon except for assistant coach Scott Brown. When Skrosky found out Dawson was still without a scholarship, he called Brown.
“I said, ‘Listen, I know you’ve still got some kids that decommitted and I know you’ve still got some scholarships available,’” Skrosky said. “I said, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t take Alex Dawson.’ So I like to think I had something to do with Alex going to Elon from the beginning.”
Dawson didn’t play much in 2011, and he got hurt in 2012. But he shone for Elon the past three years, playing in 45 of 47 games and tallying 161 total tackles. He 18.5 tackles for loss, of which six were sacks, and two blocked kicks.
In 2015, Dawson was one of three players to stay with the team for a fifth year, joining his roommate Miles Williams ’15 and Rob Sullivan ’16. With a lack of leadership on his young team, Skrosky challenged Dawson to step up.
“I thought, ‘Alex, you need to do this, because if you don’t. You’re not getting the most out of your ability and you’re not giving the most to your team.’ I really think, earlier in his career, he could have been even more of a leader and at the end he ended up kind of embracing that role,” Skrosky said. “I think, in his last year, Alex became a leader for us in that I think he mentored young kids and he took that role upon himself.”
But Dawson has always been a leader off the field, earning a Carolina Panthers Community Captain nod in high school and being named to the All-Academic teams numerous times in college.
And the Community Captain nod was an honor in a field that Dawson has deeply cared about for a while, and wants to explore more in-depth now that he’s done with school.
“While I’m relatively young and I don’t have a family or a traditional job, I want to do some traveling and community service type of work,” Dawson said. “I feel like this is the time of my life that would be the best to pursue something like that.”
Dawson first caught interest in the world beyond the United States in high school, when he found an interest in Spanish. Dawson says his Spanish is decent, but added that everyone told him the best way to truly learn the language is to immersed in it.
While the world may seem out-of-reach to a Washington D.C. born, Alamance County-bred kid, Dawson said that changed once he got to Elon.
“It’s such a study-abroad driven university, it seemed so much more attainable because of the programs that are constantly being pushed and encouraged,” Dawson said. “I thought, ‘Man, this is really possible. I could go abroad and make an impact.’”
Dawson was able to study abroad in South Africa in Jan. 2014, as he and Williams were the first two football players to study abroad at the school. The three weeks spent in South Africa continue to invigorate Dawson to go forward with international travel.
“It’s given me the confidence that I could spend a year abroad, or two years abroad,” Dawson said. “I’m glad I got that experience, because now I’m not scared to go abroad.”
Dawson had stated his intentions to join the Peace Corps in Colombia, but was not accepted into the economic development program, being told his Spanish wasn’t good enough. While that could discourage some, it’s actually motivating Dawson even more.
“In a way, it’s more encouragement for me to know how important learning a second language could be, whether you’re going into international business or not,” Dawson said. “That’s something I wish I did even earlier than I tried to.”
From here, Dawson is playing a waiting game. He is continuing his internship as a human resource officer with Volvo Trucks in Greensboro, while simultaneously studying for the LSAT test, which he is due to take in September.
Then, he wants to head to Costa Rica for the start of the spring semester in 2017, where he has a potential opportunity to teach English to the local community. And he doesn’t want to restrict himself to a certain amount of time in the country.
“When I’ve talked to people who have done something similar, a lot of times, what starts out as a short term plan is stretched,” Dawson said. “They’ve said, ‘I thought I would only be in Costa Rica for three months, but it turns out I’ve been here three years.’ I have the freedom to get into a situation abroad where, if I fall in love with the people, the culture or things like that, I have the choice to say, ‘I’m going to stay here.’”
But, should he score as well as he plans to on the LSAT, Dawson will have the strong resume to come back and study international law and go into the working world. He just doesn’t want to do that yet, as he wants to experience all that life has to offer before he gets his career going.
“I think that real business-world experience matters, and it’s a key contributor to what people look for,” Dawson said. “But I also think that there’s a lot to be said for experiences outside of the business realm, or outside of a traditional employment path that really can set you apart when it is time to look for a job.”
Dawson still doesn’t know what’s ahead. But, unlike so many students leaving Elon, that puts him at ease.
“We’ll see, man,” Dawson said. “But I’m excited about it, and I’m looking forward to it.”