How a longtime football player became a football kicker

Dawson Hodge didn’t start playing football until he was in grade 12 at Terry Fox High School. Now the former soccer player is the leading scorer for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team in Waterloo, Ont.

Former Terry Fox Ravens soccer player finds success in college with his feet by kicking a soccer ball.

Dawson Hodge is the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ leading scorer and one of only three U Sports kickers to have made all of his field goal attempts this season.

Not bad for a longtime football player who first donned a football helmet and shoulder pads during his senior year of high school. And only after being coaxed by his twin brother, Brandon.

But after a few good practice kicks, Dawson gave it a try and was part of the Ravens football team, helping Terry Fox reach the semifinals of the 2018 Subway Bowl Provincial Championships, where they were defeated by the Hyacks. of New Westminster, 33-0.

Sitting in the locker room at BC Place afterwards, Hodge said he realized he didn’t want his brief football adventure to end.

Former BC Lions kicker Lui Passaglia just happens to be a neighbor. Hodge worked with him to regain his form, then headed to a high performance kicking camp in the United States to refine him. There he won the field placement competition and was second in kickoffs among some of America’s top high school kickers.

“It motivated me to pursue football and master the art of the kick,” Hodge said.

Seeking to gain more experience before attempting to be recruited into a post-secondary program, Hodge enrolled in an additional year of high school at a football academy in Toronto that plays exclusively against top American teams.

“They were very good teams, full of college prospects, so the tough competition made us better,” Hodge said, adding that the experience of playing under the lights on Friday night in small crowded stadiums south of the border was exciting.

The seasoning of his game paid off. Half a dozen Ontario universities as well as Simon Fraser University in Burnaby have applied to join their programs.

After visiting each of them, Hodge said he was drawn to Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo who produced kickers who have played in the Canadian Football League in the past, including Ronnie Pfeffer, who won the Gray Cup. with the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Redblacks and currently plays for the Calgary Stampeders.

“I knew the team would use the kicking game,” Hodge said. “If I could prove myself, I would have a good chance of being a starter in my rookie year. “

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic threw that dream to the curb. Students were advised to stay at home and take distance learning courses. U Sports has canceled the football season.

Instead of pitting in the crisp fall air of Ontario, Hodge trained in a gym his parents set up in the garage of their Coquitlam home and studied geography on his computer. Twice a week, he ventured to Town Center Stadium to throw balls through the studs, recording his workouts for reviews online with his Waterloo coach Darcy Segin.

Still, Hodge said, staying sharp was a challenge.

“The best way to stay motivated was to be optimistic,” he said. “Knowing that one day we will be back on the pitch encouraged me to keep kicking and practicing. “

Finally, on September 18, Hodge donned the Golden Hawks’ purple and gold uniform for the first time. He scored four field goals and converted three touchdowns to lead Laurier to a 37-6 victory over York University.

“It was a great game, a good start to the 2021 season,” said Hodge.

And while the Golden Hawks lost their next two games, Hodge’s foot was sharp. Heading into Saturday’s game against defending Ontario champions McMaster Marauders, he logged in on his seven field goal attempts, converted five touchdowns and kicked three singles for 29 points. His longest kickoff was 75 yards and his best punt was 59 yards.

Hodge said his football background has helped him.

“It gave me a good basis to start.”

Still, he added, he misses the beautiful game and the buddies he played with in club teams and the Ravens.

But Hodge now has different goals, which don’t involve digging the net behind a keeper.

“I really want to win a Vanier Cup, so helping the team qualify for the playoffs is the first step. “