Dawson Herl could have kicked off his cleats, stretched out in an easy chair and spent his final few months as a William Chrisman Bear watching the world go by.
But that’s not how the future Missouri Southern State University quarterback is wired. He is a competitor, a leader and a difference maker.
“He has grown so much as a man and a player since he was this skinny little freshman,” quipped football coach Matt Perry. “We saw him grow into his body and become a very good quarterback.
“And because so many people thought basketball would be his sport, the sky’s the limit for him in football. We all saw the potential there, and Dawson worked so hard to be a good player and a great teammate. He has the respect of everyone in our program.
“Because of Dawson and the other guys who have worked so hard, we’re no longer a team that everyone wants as their homecoming dates. We’re relevant, and we’re going to work hard to remain relevant.”
Herl owns a distinct honor in the sports legacy at Chrisman as he is one of a handful of Bears to earn all-conference honors in three different sports – football, basketball and baseball.
He has been on the football and basketball radar for the past two seasons, but in his first year as a baseball player, he enjoyed a great deal of success and had the time of his life.
“In the past, I had so many other commitments with football and basketball that I couldn’t really play baseball,” said Herl, who leaves Sunday for Joplin, Mo., and the opportunity to take his football game to the next level at Missouri Southern.
“But when I committed to play football at Missouri Southern, it freed up my spring and I got to play baseball and I had a blast. I never really thought about being all-conference in three sports, I just wanted to have one last opportunity to play ball with my friends and be a part of the sports programs at Chrisman.”
Herl moved to Independence from tiny Burton, Kansas, when he was in third grade. His father Dale joined the Independence School District in 2009 and in 2013 he became the district superintendent.
“When we moved here, Chrisman was the school everyone wanted to play on their homecoming because they knew they would beat us,” Herl said, “and my friends (and teammates) like Kelvyn (Mason) and Tre (Sisco) all said we wanted to be a part of the changing the culture at Chrisman.
“We wanted to be part of the teams that had success, and it didn’t come right away, but we were part of some great teams in football and basketball. Coach (Scorpio) Horn (who is now an assistant coach at Missouri Western State University) and Coach Perry helped change the culture in football and Coach (Jake) Kates changed the culture in basketball in just two seasons.”
And Kates says Herl was a big reason for that change in culture after he helped lead the Bears to a district title and a Class 5 sectional playoff berth this season.
“I’ve never had anyone work harder in games than Dawson,” Kates said, “but he was a terrible practice player when I got here. Early on, I took him aside and told him, ‘You have to work harder at practice or you’re never going to earn the respect of your coaches or teammates.’
“And he took that to heart. All he cares about is winning. He would take less shots, he would play out of position, he would guard centers on the other teams because of his athleticism, he did everything we asked and more.
“And if he had a spare minute, he was in the gym working on his game. He helped change the culture here at Chrisman, and I’m proud of him.”
Although he will soon leave for college, Herl said he will always savor the fact that he and his teammates were part of the culture change at Chrisman.
“It means so much to me,” Herl said. “We’re not just good in football and basketball – we’re good in soccer and girls basketball and we got a lot better in baseball and beat Fort Osage on our Senior Night when they were trying to win conference. I’ll never forget that game.”
After the 12-2 mercy rule win, in which Herl had two singles and a double and scored three runs, the all-conference center fielder returned to the Chrisman infield to play catch with his dad.
“Athletics has always been the connection between my and my kids,” Dale Herl said. “The chance to play catch with Dawson on the baseball field after the Fort win meant so much to me. It made me think of all the time playing catch in the yard when Dawson was little. Those were wonderful times.”
Dawson looks back on that special Senior Night with a great deal of satisfaction and pride.
“My dad has always been there for me,” Dawson said. “That was a cool experience. He’s pushed me and made me a better player and person. And I want him to know that.
“Now, I’m looking forward to see what happens at college with all the new challenges that are out there. I had an amazing time at Chrisman and hope to have the same kind of success at Missouri Southern.”