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Rookie Camp begins today

Harvard RB Clifton Dawson
The draft, and the rookie and mini-camps that follow, really are the beginning of the season for many fans. Football really only has an off-season of about a month. After the Super Bowl, and right before free agency, is the hiberation period. After that, it's full steam ahead.

Rookie camp starts today, and will involve not just the players drafted but many of the undrafted rookies signed as free agents. One player that intrigues me is Harvard RB Clifton Dawson. He is a Dominic Rhodes clone both in terms of size and speed. Dawson ran a 4.52, hardly ever fumbled, rushed for almost 5,000 yards and 60 TDs. He also averaged, over a 4 year college career, 5.2 yards a rush! Dawson was considered by many to be the greatest Ivy League runner ever. His knock?

Well, he was playing Ivy League talent, not Big Ten or Pac Ten talent.

Still, when you run for that many yards and touchdowns, it's impressive no matter what league. For a good write-up on Dawson (who has a real chance of making the Colts' roster), read John Powers' article from a few years ago. And though he went undrafted, many teams expressed interest in Dawson:

Clifton Dawson, arguably the most prolific running back in the history of the Ivy League, was not taken in Sunday's NFL draft, but was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts. While the avid Harvard football fan was watching the draft hoping to see Dawson's name appear, the senior was already fielding phone calls from six pro teams, including Indianapolis, the Chicago Bears, the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cleveland Browns. Dawson began to receive calls midway through the seventh round in what he called "a whirlwind," fielding conversations between multiple coaches at once. It was the Colts whose offer he deemed most appealing after taking into account both money-according to the squads, the bonus he got was a sum much larger than the typical free agent deal-and opportunity. "What I enjoy about the Colts is that they expressed sincere interest in me," Dawson said. "I spent a half hour on the phone with Coach [Tony] Dungy. They didn't draft a running back, which is important. I feel going in there I'll be competing for a roster spot." The senior now travels to Indianapolis next weekend for the Colts' mini camp. He plans to return for exams and graduation before beginning his professional career.