Paul Dodson Jr. is a senior at Lincoln University in Missouri. He just finished his career playing football there as an outside linebacker and a strong safety — he accounted for 107 tackles (five for a loss), six pass breakups, an interception, and two blocked kicks in his senior season alone. He was also a DII All-American honorable mention, and was recently interviewed by the San Diego Chargers.
As demonstrated by his on-field highlights, Dodson Jr. regularly showcased explosive closing speed, running up on running backs and receivers for decisive hits. He has strong vision and is an excellent open-field tackler. You can see his highlights for yourself here. He’s typically the guy flying in from the secondary to meet the ball-carrier.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul, and he shared both his background in football and his aspirations in the sport with Locker Room Update.
When did you first fall in love with playing football?
Paul: I fell in love with the game when I was five or six years old living in Woodlee Terrace, back when I stayed in Staunton, Virginia. Everybody from my neighborhood was good at Basketball and Football. We’d play other neighborhoods and win. I got real into it. Started playing tackle when I was 8 and been playing ever since for the most part.
Who was your role model in football when you were growing up, and who was your role model outside of the sport during your childhood?
Paul: In football growing up I wanted to be like my big cousin J.C. Chisley. When I played for Staunton Midgets, (which went undefeated and won the super bowl) he played on the varsity level at Robert E. Lee High and they went undefeated in the regular season. #28. I went to every home game and he would get so much love after having a good game and I would get love by saying that’s my cousin. So he would do his thing Friday night and I would do the same Saturday morning with Daquan Scott who played at JMU recently. I saw JC do it. We have the same blood line so can do it. Then I just wanted to be the best in the family.
Off the field I would have to say My Mom and Dad. I grew up in a two parent house hold up until my mom passed in 2009 and just by seeing the example of them being a strong family, with good morals and always grinding hard to provide for their kids, instilled those characteristics into me and helped me be the man I am today with my girlfriend and 5 year old son.
What’s the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you?
I was coached up at Lincoln by Mike Jones, who played for the St. Louis Rams and is famous for “The tackle” against Dyson on the one yard line in Super Bowl XXXIV. Everything he says to me I take it to heart because he’s exactly who I’m trying to be like. He’s a NFL vet. Sometimes I try to do too much on the field and he tells me to relax and just play football, and I’m a great football player. But he also helped me mature a lot. He had us wearing shirts and ties every Wednesday, so I now I have a few suits and jackets to my wardrobe. The habits I’ve created and learned from personal development have actually gotten me on the dean’s list for the first time ever. So it’s not as much as he’s said but more of what he’s done. He’s done a lot for everybody he’s around.
Who in the NFL do you see as a role model for what you want to accomplish in football, and why?
I look up to a lot of people in the NFL just because I aspire to be like them, but one player I want to be like is Larry Fitzgerald. I know I play DB and he plays WR but he’s just so professional in everything he does. And he has dreads. And I feel like that’s important for all kids to see Black men with dreads doing positive things and not how society might portray one with stereotypes. Richard Sherman as well. They both have a lot of charity organizations and foundations and If I had that opportunity I would really want to give back to the community’s I been a part of as well. DC, Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, and Lincoln University.
There aren’t many players that rotate between safety and linebacker. The only NFL comparison that immediately comes to mind is Taylor Mays. What is it like playing both positions — what’s similar and what’s different in how your approach the two roles?
I like to think of myself as a Kam Chancellor type. I love that coaches ask me to do a lot of different things because it shows me that I’m versatile and I’m a complete football player. It’s similar in a way. On defense you’re trying to get the ball. So on run support I like to close fast and come down hill in both positions. When I’m playing OLB my drops to the hook/curl/flat area are smooth and comfortable because of my skills set at DB. As a defensive back you have to play pass first vs you having to play run first as a linebacker. That’s different. But for the most part you’re working in a great scheme and you have to do your part. Put me anywhere. I always stay aggressive no matter if I’m playing linebacker or safety or special teams because that’s my mentality on the field. Beat my opponent every play.
You mentioned to me that you had interviewed with the San Diego Chargers. Can you take a moment to talk about that process?
I was in Virginia Beach for the Dream Bowl IV all-star game for the best players in FCS, D2, D3 football players around the country. I was having pretty good practices. I was the only one who had a interception during one on ones on the first day so I like to think stood out. The scout was just asking me questions about football and coverages, the types of checks I made based off of different offensive formations, and then it got to personal things about my family, my background and things like that. Pretty much an introduction to them. I was too excited though just knowing that my dream job is really in my face and I might have an opportunity to make it a reality.
If an NFL scout were to walk up to you and give you ten seconds to sell yourself, what would you say?
I would hand him my business card, then go on to introduce myself and tell him that I love football. I will run through a wall for this opportunity to be a part of any of these great organizations. What an honor it would be. Tell him God bless and expect to hear back from him.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself in the NFL. Super Bowl ring. Taking care of my family. Small business owner. Making a difference in other people’s lives in a major way. Father of a honor roll student.
And to close, what’s the most important thing about you off the field that makes you a better player on the field?
My attitude. I take everything in a positive way so I can a get positive output. Ever since I changed my mindset that way a lot of great things been happening that I know my mom would be proud of. That’s my “why” and its keeps me going to strive to be the best me. I’ve had a lot of things taken from me. Things and people that I love. So I learned to never take any of these moments for granted. Live in the now and go hard for your future. You get what you focus on so stay focused.
We wish Paul the best of luck in his football endeavors. Follow him on Twitter for updates on his journey toward playing pro football.