VIRGINIA — Virginia head football coach Ed Cremers considers senior linebacker Dawson Flatley to be a cerebral player when prepping for each game.
But on offense as a running back? Flatley is only concerned about going as hard as he can every play.
“I like to think of myself as more of a ‘I’m gonna run hard, hit the guy, don’t go down easy’ kind of player,” Flatley said. “That’s what I like to focus on.”
That mind set has been what drives Flatley in his final season with the Blue Devils. In last week’s game against Minneapolis Patrick Henry, Flatley had 33 touches for 203 yards and a touchdown to guide his team to the 26-6 win. And although his plays aren’t flashy, they get the job done and give the Devils a reliable running back whenever they need one.
For his efforts against Patrick Henry and throughout the season, Flatley has been named the Mesabi Daily News Prep Athlete of the Week.
With fellow senior running back Caleb Bialke out with an injury, Flatley has seen his role increase with the Blue Devils. Often times, the Devils will hand the ball off to Flatley every single play of the drive until he hits pay dirt.
“It’s exciting,” Flatley said. “It does get tiring every once in a while when you get the ball every play but it gets your adrenaline pumping. Knowing that you’re the heart of the play for so many plays in a row, it’s fun. You can get a little nervous sometimes thinking that it’s all up to you but that’s where the faith in my offensive line comes in and it’s really exciting when it all works together.”
Flatley, elected as a captain this season by his fellow teammates, had high praise for his line’s performance against Patrick Henry and cited them as a major reason for his success.
“I think our line did a really good job pushing forward. I wouldn’t have been able to run if they hadn’t done their jobs really well. They were basically a wall in front of me.”
With his line in place, it wasn’t long before the running back saw success.
“I made a few good cuts from there and that was the difference in getting those bigger gains.”
Flatley’s success can also be attributed to his versatility and reliability according to his coach.
“He’s had to take on multiple roles for us over his career,” Cremers said. “He’s been starting at outside linebacker for us since the ninth grade. But on offense, we had to have him at guard when he was younger because we needed someone reliable there. He didn’t like it, but he took it upon himself to put the team first when he needed to and played at that spot for us.
“He’s been switching off at fullback but now with Caleb out he’s at halfback. He’s just a different style of runner, kind of a bruiser type player. He runs hard and gives it everything he’s got. He just cares so much and when that all comes together it means he’s moving forward.”
Along with his hard-nosed style of playing on the field, Cremers says Flatley has a strong football mind when prepping for each game off the field.
“He likes the game planning, especially on defense. He’s real cerebral. He enjoys looking for those tendencies that offenses have and he really gets into that thinking side of the game. He’s a smart kid, very, very intelligent.”
With so much time devoted to the Virginia football program, Flatley says the sport is something he’s loved since he’s been able to put pads on.
“We didn’t have tackle football until seventh grade, but ever since then I’ve loved the sport,” Flatley said. “I love the physicality of it and just getting to work hard every day and hanging out with my teammates too. The plays you make, it’s been awesome. I love football.”
Now at the tail-end of his senior season, Flatley was able to reflect on what it means to be one of the players the team can look up to.
“It’s a lot different this year because I very clearly remember looking up to the other seniors when I was younger. It feels weird to be in the position they were in but I feel like I can really inspire my teammates by working hard and setting a good example. I think that’s why I’m liking this senior season.”
Cremers backed up Flatley’s comments on being an inspiring teammate.
“He’s what you look for in a Blue Devil. He’s tough, he plays multiple sports, he’s great in school, reliable, accountable. Really, he’s a perfect teammate. He does everything the right way. ... It’s easy to cheer for a guy like that. His teammates want to play for him and see him do well.”
As the regular season approaches its end and the Devils shift to their playoff mind set, Flatley is optimistic on what his team can accomplish down the stretch.
“We’ve been playing really physical lately and I hope that we can keep that rolling over these last few games. I know our guys are going to try their hardest to keep that momentum going into the postseason.”