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New team in town
Aims to be part of community
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There is another football team in town. Atlanta Sports Academy, located on the campus of the former Southern Catholic College in Gold Creek, recently began football conditioning and practice.

Players from all over the United States and Canada recently moved into the dorms on the school's campus.

The elite athletes got a taste of summer in Georgia on July 9 when 60 of them participated in a football combine held at Veterans Memorial Park. Fighting the heat and humidity the players underwent a series of tests to measure their athletic skills.

Several of the players had Division I scholarships opportunities to schools like Auburn, Georgia and Florida State. They are at Atlanta Sports Academy because of poor academic scores in high school, or maturity level.

Most players are at the academy in order to raise their scores and maturity levels so that they can move on to high level college programs.

Last year, in its first year of competition, the Spartans took on all challengers, and finished with a record of 8-2, including a six game winning streak.

Head Coach Damon Dawson is the school president and head football coach.

Dawson was born and raised in Southwest Atlanta and graduated from Westlake High School in Fulton County. He received several awards for academic and sports participation and received a full scholarship to play football for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At UNC Chapel Hill, Dawson was a three year lettermen and played on No. 1 and No. 3 ranked defensive teams in the nation.

He completed a Bachelor of Arts in African American studies and later transferred to Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he graduated with Cum Laude honors and received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

At Hampton, Dawson made the Academic All American team, two-time defensive lineman player of the week, and won an Iron Man Award for strongest player. He bench pressed 515 pounds.

Dawson had a successful career of football; 5 years at the college level in the ACC and MEAC divisions, as well as signed a free-agent contract for professional football in Indianapolis.

Dawson also received his master of arts in psychology with a concentration in professional counseling from Argosy University and is currently pursuing his PhD in psychology at Georgia State University.

"The Academy is about getting these young men who may have had some setbacks academically or maturity wise. Getting them to a four-year college and preparing them. Our first thing is academics, then character development and next is athletics. Our focus is in that order. They realize by now that they can't go anywhere without academics. Our academy has its own academic program department," Dawson said about his school's program.

"For that reason alone, we want to make sure that focus is taken away from athletics and placed on the academics. If these guys do what they are supposed to do here they will be successful. We have a number of guys that have been recruited by SEC, ACC and ECS recruits but didn't make the scores. We have a couple of guys that need another year of maturity and they realize that, their families realize that, and the team realizes that. Once they leave here they will be able to accept those scholarships where it be Division II, Division I-AA, or a BCS school," he added.

"We just picked up a kid that was supposed to go to Auburn University, Anthony Swain. He is probably going to be one of our headliners out here. We have a new offensive coordinator from last year. We have a very competitive schedule, playing junior colleges or elite prep schools like Milford Academy and some of the colleges like Shorter University and Valdosta State. Last year we were 8-2 and this year we expect even better things. We have brought in an immense level of talent. We will have two teams with 60 players on each team and they will be competing on a high level," Dawson said about his academy's upcoming schedule.

"We have already received calls from scouts and we have had a couple at our workouts. Last year we had about 120 scholarship offers. This year we expect to double or triple that amount. Our main goal again is to get these kids in a four-year college so that they can continue their education. Change legacies. A lot of these guys are the first ones in their family to go to college. Last year 80 percent of our kids were like that. This year it will be about 65 to 70 percent. So it's about changing their legacy, changing their way of thinking. They will be required to [attend] study hall in our academic structuring program," he added.

Dawson also said that his hope is for the academy to be a viable part of the community.

"Obviously our kids are going to bigger, faster and stronger because of our conditioning program. We look forward to taking these elite athletes. We look forward to working with the community of Dawsonville. We are going to do a lot of community service activities. Five dollars from every player out here will go to the Kenny Stewart Foundation, that's a young man in the community who has cancer. He will be our honorary captain for the upcoming season. We will try to do everything we can to endear ourselves to the community. We want to not take from the community, but give back to the community here in Dawsonville," Dawson said.

The academy will have two teams, silver and black. The silver team will open its schedule against West Texas Prep Rustlers at home on Aug. 28. Kickoff will be at 3 p.m.

The black team will open its season at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y. on Aug. 20. The black team's first home game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 4 against Gray Military Academy.

Location of games is still undecided. According to the academy, there is a possibility of playing at Veterans Memorial Park, Dawson County Middle School or at Dawson County High School.