Scarborough's Clifton Dawson has taken his education to a higher level and elevated his football game to a level of dominance rarely seen by a Canadian running back in the NCAA.
Dawson has become one of the stars in the Ivy League, playing for the prestigious football program at Harvard University.
The 5-foot-10, 206-pound junior has been an early season sensation, helping the Crimson (2-0) last weekend extend its unbeaten streak to 13 games after rushing for 189 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-35 win over Brown -- earning him Ivy League player-of-the-week honours.
"Even now, I'm still blown away that I'm here," said Dawson, a graduate of Birchmount Park Collegiate. "There's such a rich football history here that still continues to this day."
Dawson's Harvard career, thus far, has been spectacular. He enters this season on pace to break the school record for most career touchdowns, rushing yards and points scored. He has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and was named a pre-season candidate for the Walter Payton Award as the top Division 1-AA player in the U.S.
"He's probably the most consistent and productive player at that position I've ever been around," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said. "He has great power and speed. He's tremendously strong, a physical runner and one of the best blocking tailbacks I've seen."
Dawson, who only has fumbled twice in his two-year career, has a legitimate chance at breaking the Ivy League record for most yards (4,715). Dawson had 2,469 career yards entering the season.
His success has sparked talk that a professional career could be within sight when he graduates in two years.
"We've had 12 kids who have signed NFL contracts in the past eight years and he certainly is one of those guys who has that potential to play at the next level," said Murphy, who has been Harvard coach for 11 seasons.
Although initially recruited by Harvard, Dawson,21, was in awe of playing for a major 1-A program and selected Northwestern University in the Big Ten. During his first season, which he redshirted, he re-examined his goals and realized an opportunity to study at Harvard would be too good to pass up. Dawson called Murphy about the possibility of transferring despite the fact Harvard is a 1-AA school and he would lose his athletic scholarship (Harvard doesn't have athletic scholarships, but provides financial aid based on need).
"I really loved Northwestern and I wouldn't have left for any other institution but Harvard," said Dawson. "It's a very competitive school, both with academics and athletics."
Although Harvard rarely recruits transfers, Murphy felt the chance was worth it.
"He would be a great player regardless if he was in the Big Ten or Ivy League," Murphy said.