Former North Middlesex Regional athletic director Mike Dawson is climbing the ranks in the Philadelphia Eagles' organization.
A former Pepperell resident and North Middlesex graduate, Dawson must have made a good impression during his first season in the NFL as a defensive quality control coach. When assistant defensive line coach Erik Chinchander left the Eagles to accept a position at the University of Oregon, the organization promoted Dawson to fill the void.
"I worked with the linebackers, primarily, last year," Dawson said. "I was moved to the D-line to coach with Joey Azzinaro, who I played with at UMass and coached with at UMaine, so I am really excited about that. I am just going to continue to learn from him like I have done for the better part of 20 years now. When Chinchander left, (head coach Chip Kelly) came in and told me he was going to promote me to assistant defensive line coach. I guess he liked the way I went about it last season."
In the playoffs last season, Philadelphia advanced to the NFC wild-card round before being eliminated, 26-24, in a loss to the New Orleans Saints.
"It was a lot of fun," Dawson said of his first year as an NFL assistant. "The guys really came together as a team and worked really hard at it. It was a great group of guys to be around. Head coach Chip Kelly and the assistant coaches I work with in the room are really great."
Dawson's typical workday starts around 7 a.m., when he and the rest of the Eagles' coaching staff arrive at the team's complex.
Being an NFL assistant means accepting the workday doesn't end at 40 hours.
"I didn't count how many hours I worked," he said. "If you're awake, you're working. That's pretty much how it is during the season.
"We have enough to do going into the week. The hours get really long at the beginning of the week. It starts to taper off around Thursday and Friday when you are usually traveling. There are no days off starting in mid-July. There are no days off until you are done playing."
Before joining the Eagles last season, Dawson hadn't set foot in an NFL stadium since he was a sophomore at North Middlesex, when he went to see a New England Patriots game at the old Foxboro Stadium.
"We have been to some great places," Dawson said. "All of the stadiums now are pretty nice. We were at MetLife both in the preseason and regular season. Going to Green Bay was pretty awesome, that certainly is one of the meccas of football.
"There were some pretty great trips. You could go down the list. I really enjoyed getting to see some of those places that I had never seen before."
For Dawson, the most difficult adjustment was spending so much time away from his family during the long grind of an NFL season.
"It truly did fly by ..." Dawson said of his first year in the NFL. "If I am not mistaken, I have an awesome job, and I am pretty lucky to be a part of it."