The Story Behind Syracuse Signee Cooper Dawson’s Inspirational College Announcement

    High school athletes across the country are working every day, every year, to further their athletic and educational careers at the next level. National

    December 19, 2018

    High school athletes across the country are working every day, every year, to further their athletic and educational careers at the next level. National Signing Day marks the first tangible moment – the actual pen-to-paper moment – that those dreams are realized.

    That anticipation and spotlight has led to college announcements over the years that have involved players skydiving, picking up one school’s hat off of a table only to put it back down and choose a different school, and specially produced short films that deliver a player’s decision in a dramatic ending.

    But Syracuse football signee Cooper Dawson, a defensive end from Hanahan (S.C.) High School, went in a different direction on Wednesday. He chose to share his moment in the spotlight with his close friend Kingsley Feinman, who was born with cerebral palsy and is paraplegic, and delivered a powerful message to the crowd in attendance.

    You can watch it here.

    “I brought Kingsley out here today because he’s inspired me a lot through the torn ACL process,” Dawson said before he made his college announcement. “He taught me that the only disability is a bad attitude, and if he can come around every day with this big ol’ smile on, I can do it just the same.”

    The table in front of Dawson had three hats representing Clemson, Syracuse and UCF. Dawson wouldn’t announce his college decision himself, though. He let Feinman do the honors.

    “I told Kingsley I’d announce it to him before I told anybody else, so I’m going to tell him and then I’ll let him announce to y’all,” Dawson said.

    He leaned over to whisper to Feinman, who then announced Dawson’s decision to the room.

    “He’s going to Syracuse,” Feinman said, with a big smile on his face, as Dawson put a Syracuse hat on Feinman’s head first, then a matching one on his own.

    It was the latest chapter in a friendship that started in Dawson’s freshman year of high school.

    “I saw him wheeling around the hallways and he had a big smile on,” Dawson told Stadium, “so I figured I’d go introduce myself, and that’s how it started.”

    The two often hung out during the summer, and Hanahan Head Coach David Morbitzer said Dawson would take the Feinmans’ van so he and Kingsley could go to the movies.

    Dawson asked for his coach’s thoughts on involving his friend in his college announcement.

    “It was his idea, his plan, his whole thought process,” Morbitzer told Stadium. “He asked me if it would be OK. I said, ‘I think that’d be great.’ He wanted to share his day and I thought it went great.”

    Feinman has been alongside Dawson throughout the recruitment process so it was fitting that he was alongside Dawson on National Signing Day.

    “He was with me a bunch through the recruiting process,” Dawson said. “I let him talk to a bunch of coaches on the phone.”

    Feinman loves hanging out with members of the football team, Dawson said. Feinman always wanted to go to one of Hanahan’s football games but he had never been to one, drawing ribbing from his friends on the team.

    The first game Feinman attended was the school’s homecoming game last season. Dawson used the opportunity to bring Feinman out on the field with him.

    Dawson’s college announcement, which has gone viral on Twitter, was the realization of a plan that’s been in the works for months.

    “After I got my first or second offer and Kingsley was super excited – more excited than I was – I knew that I had to get him involved in signing day,” Dawson said. “I knew it was going to be like this pretty early on in the recruiting process.”

    Truth be told, Feinman really wanted Dawson to go to UCLA. Even though Feinman’s father attended USC, making him a big Trojans fan, he pushed for his friend to pick USC’s cross-city rival after the Bruins offered Dawson a scholarship.

    There wasn’t a UCLA hat on the table during Dawson’s announcement, but he still kept Feinman in the dark until the moment because he knows how quickly word could’ve spread prematurely throughout their high school.

    “I told him who some of my top ones were, but I know he likes to run his mouth a little bit, so I didn’t want to tell him so he doesn’t start telling other people,” Dawson said, laughing. “He really wanted me to go to UCLA, but he was excited. He said he’s going to be excited for me wherever I go.”

    Syracuse got a 6-5, three-star defensive end when Dawson committed.

    “Good high-motor kid,” Morbitzer said. “Has a very good edge rush.”

    But the Orange clearly got so much more. It’s cliche to call an athlete “a great player but an even better person,” but you’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d disagree with that sentiment in regards to Dawson after his college announcement.

    “Cooper’s a tremendous young man of character, very humble,” Morbitzer said. “I really do think when he said, ‘(Kingsley)’s been helping me learn that you can do things with a disability,’ with being hurt, I think that he really just got some growth from that.

    “Just with his character. That’s just the kind of guy that Cooper is, he’s a really great kid, very humble kid, very selfless.

    “I think that they got a really good one in Cooper Dawson.”


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