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“Sometimes, being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” – Marc Brown

Dan Dawson showed the world that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Dawson came into the league as a sixth-round pick (68th overall) in the 2001 NLL Entry Draft. After 21 seasons, Dawson announced his retirement this summer.

He leaves his playing days as a champion, a record-setter, and a living legend of the game.

Dawson’s legacy proves that all superheroes dont wear capes. He didn’t run at the speed of light or use his strength to tear through anyone or anything that stood in his way, but he played the game with more skill, wisdom and maturity than many of his counterparts.

He adjusted to his role wherever he played and reinvented himself at every stop throughout his illustrious career. As expected as that sounds, what made Dawson such a special player was more than just accepting his role; he embraced it to the fullest. He became one of the best examples of how to become the best NLL player in any situation.

His passion and love for the game and the men he played with drove him to be the best player and the best teammate he could be.

Dan and Paul Dawson set to battle against each other. (Photo by Ryan McCullough/Toronto Rock)

Much of that was due to his role as an older brother. Paul Dawson, three years younger than Dan, has spent many years looking up to the example Dan set.

Anyone that has ever played with him has seen the work hes put in and the dedication hes put into the game,Paul said. A lot of players, especially guys in that Toronto Rock locker room, are reaping the benefits of being teammates with him. Im sure there are other guys in this league from his Rochester days who have seen his work ethic and been able to kind of pick at it and been able to apply it to their own games.

Since in his rookie season of 2007, Paul has been in the league to witness much of his brothers excellence, and for several years, they represented the same team.

In 2009 and 2010, Paul and Dan were members of the Boston Blaze. In 2012, they were paired up once again with the Philadelphia Wings for one season. They next joined forces in Rochester, where they played together for nearly six seasons until February 2018, when Dan was traded to the Saskatchewan Rush for a hot minute.

2019 would be the last time Paul and Dan would play together in the NLL. The expansion San Diego Seals coveted both of their services. Dan started the season with the Seals, and later that year, the team traded for Paul, bringing them together for the final two months of the season.

Dan Dawson with the Boston Blazers.

When, unbelievably, it was time for the end of Dans playing career, he had set the NLLs all-time regular season record of games played (322) and assists (954). He also hung up his gear having amassed the second-most regular season points (1,505) and ranks fourth all-time in goals with 551. There were three seasons in which he had over 40 goals and three seasons where he totaled over 70 assists. There were also three years where Dan compiled over 100 points.

Youll also see Dans name all over the postseason record book. He currently sits in second all-time in playoff assists with 106 and is tied for second for the most points in postseason history with 165. He put up those numbers in part because he played in 34 playoff games, which is tied for fifth-most playoff games ever, and found the back of the net the seventh-most times in postseason history with 77 goals.

From the backyard to summer ball through the pros, few lacrosse brothers know each other better than the Dawsons. So, you can imagine how unusual it would be for Paul to see his brother rise to stardom.

Paul has seen his brother transform from an everyman to the superhero that he is today, although Paul admits that often you wouldn’t be able to tell that that superhero was right in front of you.

Dan and Paul Dawson jostle for positioning during a 2022 game. (Photo by Ryan McCullough/Toronto Rock)

Its special, but its different because your best friend is one of the best players of all time,Paul said. It’s a weird situation because youre so close to him, and you’ve seen what hes done, but then at the same point, you know who he is and what hes done. Who he is and who he is in lacrosse is like two different people. If you meet him on the street, you wouldn’t be like, Hey, that’s the [NLLs] second-best all-time point scorer – hes a very modest guy.

Everything that hes done in this game hasn’t come without hard work and sacrifice. Its great to see him get rewarded and have such an amazing career.

It will be a surreal experience not seeing Dan Dawson on the floor giving it his all. He made an indelible mark on the league and, quite literally, was ever-present in the NLL for over two decades. Yet, while living in the post-Dan Dawson NLL world will be sad and difficult, this is a natural part of the business.

Just as Dan and Paul have had the privilege to play with and against legends of the game, such as John Grant Jr., Casey Powell, Colin Doyle and others, they have seen themselves become mentors and role models for the generations of players that have come after them. 

Dan Dawson with the Rochester Knighthawks.

Neither Dan Dawson nor Brodie Merrill will be participating in the 2023-24 NLL season, but there will be many who learned from them or those who have wanted to match their greatness, such as the Dhane Smiths, Jeff Teats and Lyle Thompsons of the box lacrosse world.

The good thing about this sport and this league is that there is no shortage of superstars; its almost like next guy up,Paul said. It’s sad and kind of weird when we see these guys retire because at some point in the game, you never think its going to end, and it always does end. But, the way our league is set up, theres no shortage of the next guy who is ready to take over. These younger guys that are coming in, theyre coming in ready and almost dont need any time to adjust.

As was told to a notable superhero in the past, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Dan Dawson played that way for more than two decades, and more than that, he embodies the meaning of that message just as much off the floor as he did on it, and maybe even more. Because of that, Dans impact on the game will be felt to infinity and beyond.