Yorba Linda football players Luke Dawson, left, and Jaydyn Webb have been friends since their Pop Warner days. An injury to Dawson is keeping them from playing together this season, but Webb is wearing Dawson's jersey in games. He has also asked to be called Dawson-Webb by the PA announcer at games. (EMLILY RASMUSSEN, CONTRIBUTOR)

Yorba Linda football player becomes Dawson-Webb to honor teammate


YORBA LINDA - It is devastating when an athlete suffers an injury, especially one as serious as a torn knee lignament.

That misfortune struck the Yorba Linda football team this year when Luke Dawson, the team’s defensive MVP, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a passing league game.

“My expectations were extremely high and it was pretty devastating to lose such a good player,” Yorba Linda coach Jeff Bailey said. “I consider him one of our best players, and it hurts any team to lose one of your best players. It was tough ... I’ve known him since he was a little kid and he’s a tremendous kid and a tremendous athlete.”

The injury hurt the Mustangs on the field - Dawson alternated between many positions, including quarterback, running back, receiver and free safety -- and emotionally too. For Jaydyn Webb, the injury meant his best friend was off the field.

“I would always look to him for help and he would always be there,” said Webb, who plays running back and linebacker. "So to not have that out there, it sucks.”

The comradery between Dawson and Webb started about seven years ago in Pop Warner.

During a game, Dawson was feeling unwell and ended up going to the hospital. The diagnosis was Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, in which electrical pathways in the heart cause rapid heartbeats. He had heart surgery the next day, and missed an important game for his Pop Warner team.

“(Dawson’s) always been like a brother to me, so once I heard that news I was devastated,” Webb recalled. “I wanted to play the (next) game for him, so I did my best to go full speed and go hard every single play.

“At the end of the game, I went to him and told him that we won the game for him.”

Since then, the Dawson and Webb families have grown very close, and that includes the bond between Jaydyn and Debbie Dawson, Luke’s mother.

In the midst of the sadness over Luke’s torn ACL, which would force him to miss his senior season, Jaydyn overheard Debbie talking about her son.

“I mentioned not being able to hear my son’s name on the intercom (at the games) and just the changes that we’ll have to do in the next season,” Debbie said.

To honor his friend, Jaydyn decided to wear Luke’s No. 14 jersey and requested that the stadium announcer call him “Dawson-Webb” over the PA system.

“Luke and his family have always been there for me, so I decided to start wearing his number against El Dorado (on Sept. 23) because that was the school that (Debbie) went to,” Webb explains. “The fact that she couldn’t hear her son’s name again in the stands just had me heartbroken. So I wanted to wear the jersey and once I make a tackle or a play or anything, I wanted them to call Luke’s name in the stands so his mom and his family could hear his name.”

Webb, who had recently recovered from an ACL tear of his own last year, has continued to wear the jersey this season.

“The first time I saw (Jaydyn wearing the jersey) I was a little confused because I’ve worn it every time, but I think it’s cool,” Dawson said. “It’s an honorable thing and it’s a good thing to do, and I don’t think anyone else would’ve done it except him.”

There have been confused looks in stands when “Dawson-Webb” is announced over the sounds system, and for the Dawson and Webb families it has been an emotional ride.

“When I heard his name the first time I just cried,” recalled Debbie. “I’m just touched for somebody to be so unselfish. After (Jaydyn) having his ACL injury ... and he wanted to put on my son’s jersey for him -- you don’t see a lot of kids do that.”

Once Dawson is recovered from the injury, he plans to attend a football camp and try to get some attention from college recruiters. Bailey said because of Dawson’s performance during his junior year, his chances are high for scholarship offers.

In the meantime, Dawson attends the games and helps lead the Mustangs from the sidelines. The Mustangs (7-2, 1-1) play their Crestview League finale on Friday against Canyon (4-5, 1-1).

Dawson says he looks for opportunities to give advice to teammates, explaining that “I’ve been playing for a long time, and I just realize the stuff that they wouldn’t realize ...”

Bailey, who has coached at the school for seven years, said Dawson’s assistance has helped. So has the influence from Dawson and Webb’s relationship.

“(Webb) stepped in and did a great job, and he’s an inspiration to a lot of these kids, of how hard you’ve got to work to understand it can be gone,” Bailey said. “That’s one thing that I think both of these guys really get, is they appreciate what they have here, being a part of a team and a part of a program. I think the other teammates are starting to realize that, so I think that’s helping in our success.”

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