Dontae Cawthorne first hit the football field as an eighth-grader. When Fair Park head coach Mike Greene saw a large frame with wheels, the advice was easy.
“He said, ‘You can run and hit. We’ll teach you to play football,’” Cawthorne recalled.
Now, Cawthorne is 6-foot-1, 248 pounds and the senior leader for the Indians. He led the team in tackles from his defensive end position last season. It looked like Cawthorne would also have an opportunity to post big numbers on offense as an imposing tight end.
However, when Greene lost an offensive tackle, Cawthorne was asked to move to a position that brings no publicity or fame.
He didn’t blink an eye.
“He doesn’t care about getting his name in the paper,” Greene said.
Cawthorne understands his actions are being watched by many young Indians, and can pay off for years.
“I love that they look up to me. I have to make better plays, better decisions,” Cawthorne said. “It feels good. It can’t get better than playing football.”
Cawthorne spent his summer underneath the blazing sun, building houses and landscaping. Although the heat is still present, preseason practice is a welcomed activity.
“At least this is fun,” Cawthorne said. “When I’m at home I can’t wait to get to practice.”
In addition to a raw talent, four years ago, Greene saw a kid who had a couple of options off the field.
“And he could have gone either way,” said Greene, who enjoys the unheralded portion of being a high school coach. “Coaching doesn’t stop when we leave the field. If you can catch them early enough, you can pull them in.”
It didn’t take much to get Cawthorne on the correct side of the fence.
“He’s going to be a great dad, he’ll have a job,” Greene said. “He works hard.”
Cawthorne, who has aspirations of playing college football, enjoys the atmosphere in the halls and classrooms at Fair Park.
“It’s like having a bunch of uncles and aunties out there,” he said.
Cawthorne has developed a fun relationship with running back Cedric Pehl, the only other returning starter on offense. Since Cawthorne plays both ways, the two often battle in practice.
“We try to beat each other on the field,” Cawthorne said.
Who gets the upper hand?
“Me, sir,” he said.