ERIE — One of the better players in Erie High School history has signed on to play football at the next level.
EHS senior quarterback Dawson Lehman on Tuesday signed his letter of intent to play at Bethel College, an NAIA school in Newton. The choice was made rather quickly after he visited the campus Jan. 7.
“I’m thrilled,” Lehman said. “I wasn’t sure how likely it would be once the season started and then once I started getting some offers, I realized it was going to be a possibility. I was just thrilled I’m getting a chance to play next year.”
While Fort Hays State University, Highland Community College and other private colleges were on Lehman’s radar, there was really no choice after his visit to the Bethel campus a week ago. Lehman said he liked the coaches and the fact that it’s a smaller school. Lehman, who lived in Girard and Oakley before Erie, said his experiences in small schools has fed his interest in keeping that atmosphere. Bethel’s coaches seemed as if they had Lehman’s best interests in mind, too, which helped him make the decision rather quickly.
Lehman drew interest from Bethel third-year head coach Terry Harrison, who has gone 19-10 in his three years, including a record of 16-3 his last two seasons. What sold Lehman even more on Bethel is that when Harrison started in 2018, he implemented a flexbone offense, which has helped the college become one of the premier rushing attacks in the NAIA, and more importantly, an undefeated team playing for a conference championship this season.
Lehman, 18, won’t be going to college as a quarterback, but as an athlete. Lehman said he anticipates being moved to slot back, corner or safety, though the Bethel coaching staff isn’t sure right now.
Still, this move is seamless for Lehman, as based on his all-around stats, he can likely sustain productivity at the skill positions in college. Lehman in 2020 passed the ball 51-of-152 for 778 yards, rushed 113 times for 1,107 yards and scored 28 total touchdowns. Lehman as a kick returner also racked up 525 yards with two touchdowns.
Third-year Erie head coach Eddie Kearns said he knows Lehman would do great at any of those positions at Bethel. Using Lehman as a quarterback in an RPO (run-pass-option) offense, Kearns said Lehman’s best attributes are his legs and hands, although Lehman can pass.
Lehman also understands the concepts on defense, which should help him as an offensive and a defensive player at Bethel. And highlighted by his eye-popping statistics on special teams, Kearns has a good feeling that Lehman can also play as a kick returner at the next level.
Either way, Kearns couldn’t be happier for Lehman.
“I’m always proud of my players whether they sign or not,” Kearns said. “It really makes me feel good when a player has an opportunity to go on to the next level and give something back to football. And the reason why I say that is because there is no way I would be where I am right now if it wasn’t for football.”
Education-wise, Lehman wants to maintain a high GPA, while likely taking business classes.
“The coaches were all great. Over the summer, we were lifting and having workouts for multiple sports and they always believed in me, and it truly helped, and so did my teammates,” Lehman said. “My parents were a big help there, supporting me. That was great knowing they were on board with whatever decision I made.”