In Cincinnati, Paul Dawson is already giving memorable quotes.
“There’s no other Paul Dawson, for sure,” he said with a laugh as he talked to the media who cover the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted the TCU linebacker with the last pick of the third round in the NFL Draft on Friday night.
Dawson was one of two TCU players taken by NFL teams.
Left tackle Tayo Fabuluje went in the sixth round to the Chicago Bears. Safety Chris Hackett signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and cornerback Kevin White signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Also, David Porter went with the Miami Dolphins, linebacker Jonathan Anderson and safety Sam Carter signed with Chicago, and defensive tackle Chucky Hunter joined the Dallas Cowboys.
The question to Dawson was somewhat routine for new picks: “Is there anyone in the NFL who reminds you of yourself?”
Dawson, whose sunny confidence at TCU was so high it amused/frightened the coaches and players around him, replied with his unmistakable personality: “No. There’s no other Paul Dawson, for sure. But other players that play like me, I would say Lavonte David from the Buccaneers, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly — he’s an awesome playmaker. And so is Vontaze — he’s a great playmaker.”
Vontaze is Vontaze Burfict, a five-year NFL veteran and Pro Bowler whom Dawson already sees himself playing alongside. And Rey Maualuga, a seven-year veteran.
“I know that the Bengals have a great linebacking corps that I would fit great in, as a Will,” he said. “Me, Rey and Vontaze — we’ll be a great, awesome linebacking corps, probably one of the best in the NFL.”
Only problem is, Dawson has to show it first.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther like Dawson’s high intensity, but they caution that he has a long way to go to get himself ready to make plays in the NFL.
“He’s going to have to come in here, work his butt off, get into the locker room, do things the way we want them done,” Guenther said. “We know they coached him hard down there, and they run a very good scheme. One thing you can’t coach is, he doesn’t take many false steps. On tape, he was one of my favorite guys. I’m very particular about LBs and what I’m looking for, and he had a lot of traits that I like.”
Lewis said he got a good feel for Dawson’s personality from TCU coach Gary Patterson. He said they talked for 45 minutes about Dawson, his playing style and his fit in the locker room, which is home to another former TCU player, quarterback Andy Dalton.
“He hoped that we were able to add another Horned Frog here, and he’d be behind us 100 percent,” Lewis said of his conversation with Patterson. “He thought he’d be a great addition to our team. He felt this was a good spot for him, and that we could continue to shape and mold him as they’d been trying to do there.”
Lewis said he spoke to Dawson, who began his college career as a wide receiver and ended it as the leading tackler in TCU’s 12-1 season last year, about expectations at the next level.
“He has to understand it, and that’s why we brought him in here and spent some time with him last week, so he could get an understanding coming from us, what it was going to take to eventually achieve your goals,” Lewis said.
Dawson liked the meeting.
“My visit was awesome,” he said. “I had a great time meeting everybody. I feel like I connected with everybody well. Me and the head coach got along really well. We understood each other really well.”
Fabuluje had to wait until Saturday to learn he had reached the NFL. He told Chicago reporters it was “a dream come true” to hear his name called in the draft.
“I couldn’t help but break down into tears when I heard the news,” he said.
Fabuluje, whose path even to college football was uncertain, said he wasn’t always sure he could see this day coming.
“I didn’t think it could happen for me, with the bad things that were going on in my life,” he said. “I told people before, you lose sight of the good things in life when you’re down and you’re struggling and you’re trying to dig yourself out of a hole. Being in this position today, to be a Chicago Bear, is just a dream come true. This is something that’s God-given, and it’s just a blessing and amazing, and I don’t have words that can explain how I feel today.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407