Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Volume One, Number Twelve
April 30, 2008
Editor: Tom James,
ISU Football Alumni Blog Page:

ISU's Faulkner invited to Saints’ mini-camp; Linebacker led ISU last season with 113 tackles

By David HughesThe Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Playing on a 0-11 Indiana State football team last fall did not keep NFL scouts from noticing senior outside linebacker Shonda Faulkner.

On Tuesday, Faulkner told the Tribune-Star that he has been invited to participate in the New Orleans Saints’ mini-camp for rookies May 9-11 at New Orleans. He has not signed a free-agent contract, but he hopes to receive an offer from the Saints based on his performance at mini-camp.

Faulkner, who graduated from ISU in December with a degree in communications, said he received a call from the Saints after the NFL Draft ended Sunday night.

“I’m very, very excited,” Faulkner said in a phone interview from his home in Poukeepskie, N.Y. “I’m not sure of the defense that they run, but I think I can get in there and battle for a position.”

In 2007, Faulkner led the Sycamores in tackles (113), tackles-for-loss (five) and fumble recoveries (three) and tied for the team lead in interceptions with one. Yet ISU did not win a game for the second time in his three seasons there.

“I was kinda worried about that,” Faulkner said, admitting that he did not know if the Sycamores’ lack of success would affect the NFL scouts’ perception of him as a player. “But I’m happy with what’s going on right now.”

Listed at 6 feet, 1 inch and 215 pounds in the Indiana State football media guide last fall, Faulkner said he’s worked hard in the offseason to increase his bodyweight to 228 pounds. He also mentioned that he’s bench-pressed 315 pounds for 12 repetitions and he’s been timed in the 40-meter dash in 4.48 and 4.50 seconds as recently as March 7.

Before the NFL Draft, “Pro Football Weekly” had Faulkner rated 45th in the nation among college outside linebackers in the publication’s annual draft preview.Faulkner, 24, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Before coming to ISU, he attended Hudson Junior College.

The Saints, coached by former Indiana State assistant Sean Payton, finished 7-9 last season. That tied Carolina for second place in the NFC South, two games behind division winner Tampa Bay.

Indiana State football great Rich Dawson’s son Aaron working way through college, professional hockey ranks

By Dennis ClarkThe Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute will never be confused with Hockeytown U.S.A., a slogan popularly adopted by the ice hockey hotbed of Detroit, Mich.

While Aaron Dawson, 23, didn’t live in Terre Haute for long, he is a likely National Hockey League prospect. After all, he went unsigned as a fourth round draftee of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2003 amateur entry draft.

If the last name Dawson rings a bell, his father Rich was a two-time (1983-84) All-Missouri Valley Conference performer at center on Indiana State’s football team. Those two seasons, the elder Dawson played on 9-3 and 9-4 Sycamores’ teams that reached the NCAA I-AA playoffs.

“I graduated early in Dec. 1984. I took some classes in the second semester [in 1985] while I was getting ready for pro football,” Rich recalled of a time when he was a free agent signee of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National Football league. “My wife and I lived in an apartment near [Memorial] Stadium at that time.”

Also during that time span, Aaron was born in Terre Haute on March 11, 1985.

“I played in all four preseason games for the Cardinals later that summer, then the coach called me in to his office. He told me to hand in my playbook and get a job,” Rich laughed.

With his football career suddenly over, Dawson moved his family back to his native Peoria, Ill. Raised in Peoria, Aaron has filled out even bigger than his dad, currently 6-foot-6, 235 pounds. But instead of following in his dad’s footsteps in football, he has developed into an outstanding ice hockey defenseman.

“I was eight years old when I started playing organized hockey,” Dawson said. “I played in Peoria until I was 14, then I spent a year playing for Team Illinois in Chicago.”When Dawson was 17, he was drafted to play Major Junior A hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. Dawson spent five years playing with the Peterborough Petes — a city located an hour and 20 minutes east of Toronto — starting with what would have been his junior year at Peoria Notre Dame High School.

“The OHL is a step up from Junior hockey programs in the U.S. … the U.S. program is more for players who want to play Division 1 [college programs]. The OHL is for players who want to turn pro.

“During the hockey season, I went to public high school in Peterborough,” Dawson explained. “But I came back [to Peoria] after the season to finish out my junior and senior years … I wanted to graduate with my friends.“Our academics were monitored a lot during the school year. There was no free wheeling, very structured. We had an academic advisor and good grades were a prerequisite for playing.”

Dawson explained his not signing with the NHL’s Carolina team in 2003, saying, “There was the [NHL] strike at the time which made things challenging to come into the league then. I was also recovering from shoulder surgery which had delayed my progress.”He played with the Petes for five years, their team winning the league championship in his final season of 2005-06. That year, he scored 12 points as a defenseman (two goals, 10 assists), but added four goals and two assists in the playoffs.

Dawson was also named the OHL’s most improved player after that championship season. During his time with the Petes, Dawson’s most recognizable teammates are current NHL players Eric and Jordan Staal.

“There are 20 teams in the [OHL] and the regular season consists of 68 games,” Dawson noted. “There are four rounds of playoffs — all best-of-seven. I played 91 games that last season. We didn’t get done until the middle of May.”Since he was a drafted member of the OHL, he is currently utilizing a key league benefit of a full-ride scholarship at a four-year college in Canada. For the past two seasons, he has played for the hockey team at the University of Prince Edward Island, where Dawson is majoring in business with a minor in economics.

“I still want to play hockey professionally, hopefully in the National Hockey League someday,” Dawson said. “When I left the Petes, I came home and went through a tryout with the [high minor league team] Peoria Rivermen.

“They offered me a contract, but I didn’t sign. I’m looking right now for stability. I decided the best plan was to have my degree as a backup if hockey doesn’t work out.“I had heard a lot of good things about UPEI, that it was a good place,” he noted.
“When I went on my recruiting trip, I really enjoyed myself. I felt like I had known them forever.”

Dawson plans to play his junior and senior seasons at UPEI, then see about pro hockey. In his two college seasons, he has scored 21 points (five goals, 16 assists).

He loves the Charlottetown area, where UPEI is located, saying, “The winters are tough. But it is really pretty here in the summer.”

Asked if he emulates the style of play of any current NHL player, he quickly said, “Chris Pronger. He’s a great player. He plays smart but is also tougher than nails.”

Aaron made a special point of thanking his father and mother for their support over the years, saying, “I had a lot of homesickness when I was 16 years old. Being away from mom and dad was tough … I had to learn from my mistakes.

“I got through that, but I still missed my family and friends. I missed a lot of time when my little sisters were growing up. “I also can’t thank my dad or mom enough for driving me to Chicago [for Team Illinois] … two nights a week making the six-hour round trip for practices, then to games on the weekend. They would get off work and do all that driving. They never complained.”

Aaron and Rich have returned to Terre Haute a few times over the years, most recently playing together in a ISU football golf outing the day prior to the annual Blue-White spring scrimmage on April 19. Rich was a teammate of new ISU head coach Trent Miles his last two seasons.

Rich presently owns a pipe contracting company in Peoria.

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