Former Evangel and LSU star Byron Dawson has been named head football coach at Centenary College. Dawson, a Shreveport native, was chosen following a national search and will lead the program when the Gents return to the field in the fall of 2024 after five decades without the sport on campus.
“We were very pleased that many fine head coach candidates from across the nation expressed interest in leading Centenary’s new football program,” said Centenary president Dr. Christopher L. Holoman. “Coach Dawson emerged from a rigorous search process as the clear choice. I am excited to have him leading our program and can’t wait to see our team hit the field.”
Dawson is one of the most recognizable names in local football at any level. He put together an impressive high school career at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, where he was selected as the USA Today High School All American Defensive MVP for Louisiana, named Class 3A All-State and Defensive MVP, and helped lead Evangel to a 15-0 record in 1997, three state championships, and a No. 17 national ranking, among other accolades.
Dawson is a graduate of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he was a four-year letterman on the LSU defensive line, recording 86 tackles and four sacks while playing for Nick Saban, Pete Jenkins, Will Muschamp, Karl Dunbar, and Bo Davis. Dawson was part of LSU’s nationally-ranked defense during the 2001 season, during which the Tigers upset Tennessee to win the SEC Championship and then defeated Illinois in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
He started his coaching career at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge before returning home to an impressive 15-year coaching tenure at his high school alma mater, Evangel. During his time as defensive line coach, defensive coordinator, and eventually head coach, Dawson led Evangel to a state championship and national rankings; garnered Coach of the Year honors at the city, state, and national level; and coached 10 NFL players, including 2019 first round draft pick Jerry Tillery.
In March of 2020, Dawson joined the Tulane University football staff as defensive line coach, where he made an immediate impact and was a finalist for FootballScoop’s 2020 National Defensive Line Coach of the Year. Along with helping lead a defense that was #2 in the AAC in sacks per game (2.8) and #6 in rushing yards allowed in 2021, he recruited seven highly touted defensive linemen to the Tulane squad and mentored two NFL draft picks. While at Tulane, Dawson was selected for the NFL’s highly competitive Bill Walsh Coaching Fellowship Program with the Los Angeles Rams as a defensive line coaching intern. Under the leadership of Defensive Line Coach Eric Henderson of the Los Angeles Rams, Dawson had the opportunity to learn at the highest level of football, obtaining extensive knowledge from several notable NFL coaches.
“Coach Dawson is a family man and has deep ties to the Shreveport area,” said David Orr, director of athletics and recreation. “He shows a sincere desire to help mentor young people and build strong relationships. His dedication to football and the life lessons surrounding the game is also impressive. I am excited that Coach Dawson has chosen to bring his championship level experience and football success to Centenary College.”
Archer Frierson, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, expressed excitement about this important next step in the process of bringing football back to Centenary.
“The Board of Trustees is proud to support Coach Dawson as he starts the work of recruiting a team of outstanding student-athletes to Centenary,” said Frierson. “It is gratifying to see the community support that Centenary’s football program has already received since we announced the return of football last fall, and I know that under Coach Dawson’s leadership, this support and momentum will continue to grow.”
Centenary is currently a member of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for all sports except women’s gymnastics (Midwest Independent Conference) and men’s lacrosse (Heartland Collegiate Lacrosse Conference). The athletic department features 19 varsity squads and one club team. The addition of football provides new options for student-athletes as well as the potential for expanding opportunities in activities such as music and spirit groups.
“I believe that this is a great opportunity to bring college football to Shreveport-Bossier,” said Dawson after the announcement. “This is a unique and special moment for me: to be a head coach on the college level and to do it in the city that I love. Shreveport-Bossier needs college football and we will give our local student athletes an option to play college football at home. To lay the foundation for a program at a great school like Centenary is exciting.”
Watch the live feed of the announcement press conference at facebook.com/CentenaryCollegeLa.