Dermontti Dawson's former high school coach, Steve Parker, misidentified his player the first time he met him in the hallway of their high school. Parker thought he was adult. In a more recent assessment, Parker identified him as the greatest center in professional football.
The former proved to be a fateful moment.
"If not for Coach Parker," Dawson revealed, "I never would have played football. I want to thank Coach Parker for having confidence in me.
After high school, Dawson went on to play at the University of Kentucky. The Pittsburgh Steelers plucked the former Wildcat out of the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. After spending a year at guard, he moved into the middle in his second season.
"He could make a bad step and still make a great block," Parker said of his former player. "Watching him develop in college and in the pros, I can say he is the best player to ever play the game."
Dawson had to be the best. He took over the center job for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Anything less than the best, and he would have been just another lineman.
Over the course of his 13-year career, Dawson made seven Pro Bowl appearances. He was a starter in six of his Pro Bowl appearances. Perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that Dawson played all 16 games for 10 straight seasons in Pittsburgh.
"Being a Steeler meant being a blue collar worker with an unwavering commitment to excellence," Dawson said. "I hope I made Steeler nation proud."
Dawson went further, explaining his own personal ethos that says more than anything about why he was at the podium in Canton on Saturday night.
"Do everything with a purpose," Dawson said. "Live, act, play and work with a purpose, with a passion and more importantly with honor."
For more on the Steelers, check out Behind the Steel Curtain.