Birmingham Groves senior cornerback Khalil Dawsey likes to imagine himself on an island in coverage — no support.
But during a recruiting process that culminated with a commitment to Harvard, Dawsey was rarely alone. His mother, Chastity Pratt-Dawsey, was always in his corner.
“My mom and I have been through it all,” Dawsey said. “Sophomore year I was getting down on myself, didn’t see much recruiting action, didn’t get much contact from coaches, and I was beginning to doubt myself, but she was always there. She was always supportive. She told me that I knew what I was capable of and could do anything. That kept me pushing and kept me focused.”
Pratt-Dawsey has been stalking the line of scrimmage during Dawsey’s games with her signature vuvuzela since he was 9 years old and playing in a local Pop Warner League. Some parents think she’s too far into football, but she says she’s watching every snap closely in case Dawsey gets hurt.
Dawsey and his sister have been taught since they were toddlers that no dreams are too big.
“We talked to my kids at very young ages about going to good colleges,” Pratt-Dawsey said. “When Khalil was 4, if you asked him what college he was going to, he would say ‘whale.’ He meant Yale. And my daughter would say she was going to ‘princess.’ She meant Princeton. We put the idea in their head early on to go to prestigious colleges.”
By the time Dawsey was 13, he knew football was going to be a big part of his future, and he already had a Harvard sweatshirt. When someone from Harvard first visited Dawsey at Groves, Pratt-Dawsey’s hopes swelled.
“When I heard a recruiter from Harvard had visited at his school I got a flutter in my heart,” Pratt-Dawsey said.
But Dawsey’s decision wasn’t that simple. Pratt-Dawsey estimates about 30 colleges ended up recruiting Dawsey, and almost every Ivy League school offered him a spot.
In July, Dawsey went on an offseason recruiting visit swing through the northeast with his mom.
“We stopped at Princeton, we went to Harvard and then our next stop was supposed to be Yale,” Pratt-Dawsey said.
Pratt-Dawsey was attending a political journalism conference at Harvard while her son mingled with the football staff and team. She was tied up with colleagues when he texted her.
“He said, ‘I don’t think we need to go to Yale. This is over. We’re done,’” Pratt Dawsey said. “I was in a meeting, and I wanted to scream, ‘Yes!’”
Fittingly, it was Harvard football’s familial atmosphere that sold Dawsey on Cambridge. Dawsey has a 3.8 GPA and scored a 1270 on his SAT.
“I really wanted to find a place that felt like it had a family atmosphere and where I was comfortable around the coaches,” Dawsey said. “My mom cried tears of joy at every Ivy League offer I got, but Harvard was a little more special. She cried when I committed, too."
"She’s the best, and I try to do the best that I can to make her life easier. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I feel like going to Harvard is an opportunity to make her life better. She’s done the same for me.”
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