MEMPHIS — When Ridgeway High School star Sheldon Dawson got ready to announce where he'll play his college football next year, he decided to forego the overused tradition of choosing from three or four ballcaps on the table in front of him.
He kept his presentation simple because the decision itself was simple.
The speedy 5-foot-11, 175-pound multi-purpose athlete committed to Memphis during a brief ceremony in his high school's gym Monday — and he had a long list of good reasons why.
Tops on the list were his close relationship with Memphis coach Larry Porter and the rare chance to play both offense and defense.
"I met Coach Porter my ninth-grade year when he was still coaching at LSU," said Dawson, who is ranked as the 10th best prospect in Tennessee by Scout.com. "He liked what I was doing then, and he told me to just keep working and he would be in contact with me. We have a real close relationship, and that had a lot do with my decision."
Dawson ran for 1,045 yards last year and scored 14 touchdowns as a running back while sharing the rushing load with other talented ball carriers. He also made 41 tackles as a defensive back.
"Coach Porter would like for me to play running back and sometimes come in as the nickel back on defense," Dawson said. "I'll also have a chance to contribute in the kick return game. You honestly can't ask for much more than that."
Dawson said he began leaning heavily toward Memphis when Melrose quarterback Will Gross, the state's 14th-ranked prospect, announced last week that he will play for the Tigers.
"I saw another top-25 recruit who wanted to stay here at home and help Memphis out, so I wanted to do the same thing," Dawson said. "Many may say we're making a bad decision, but we just believe. We believe in Coach Porter, and we believe we can help him get the job done."
Dawson is the fourth player from Ridgeway to commit to a Division I school this summer. The others are running back Jaylen Walton (Ole Miss), offensive lineman Cordale Boyd (Arkansas) and defensive end Brandon Lewis (Arkansas).
Roadrunners coach Duron Sutton said he feels like a proud father everytime one of his players makes a declaration.
“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Sutton said. “For these guys to be able to take their God-given ability to the college level is a fantastic thing — and they’ve been really anxious to get this out of the way so they can concentrate on the season we have coming up.
“This is just a great time of year.”