Dawson Shively delivered some bone-crushing hits this season roaming the Monroe City secondary. But it almost never happened.

Dawson Shively delivered some bone-crushing hits this season roaming the Monroe City secondary.

The Panthers safety also recorded a team-high nine interceptions, including one in the final seconds of the Class 1 state championship game on Nov. 25 to secure the program’s third state title.

But it almost never happened.

On August 5, 2010, Shively’s parents, Mike and Tracy, could tell something was not right with Dawson.

A trip to the doctor revealed the 10-year old had a brain tumor.

“We rushed him to Columbia and they said it was the size of a racquetball,” Dawson’s father explained.

If Dawson’s parents did not already know how much football meant to their son at an early age, they quickly found out.

“The morning of his surgery, he had a question for the doctor,” Mike said. “He asked if he would still be able to make it to football practice on Monday. We just thought he didn’t understand how serious the situation was.”

But it was evident Dawson lived and breathed football. Monroe City did not offer tackle football in the third grade. Shively went to rival Palmyra to play.

The five-hour surgery was successful. It didn’t take long for a member of the family to ask the doctor a burning question.

“After the doctor told us everything went good, Mike asked if he would be able to play sports again,” Tracy said. “The doctor said yes. Then Dawson asked about football. The doctor said he didn’t think it would be possible.”

But Dawson had other ideas.

With the help of his father and older brother Gage, Dawson was bound and determined to prove the doctors wrong.

“Sports were my whole life,” Dawson explained. “Especially football. It was my father and brother’s favorite sport. I knew I would work as hard as I could and do all the physical therapy and whatever else I had to do to get back on the field.”

Shively had to sit out his fifth grade season. Naturally it was tough on him. But in August 2011 he received good news.

“We went back for our year checkup and the doc said everything looked and healed up great,” Mike said. “He then asked if we had any questions. Dawson immediately asked, ‘Are you going to let me play football?’ The doctor said he did not advise it but he was not going to stop him.”

With all the hard work Dawson put in during the year away from the field, he had to put in even more work once he was able to start playing the sport he loved again.

“Mentally it was great to be back out there,” Dawson said. “But it was so tough physically ‘cause I was not the same. It was so challenging because I did not have the same abilities as before. I had to learn how to do things over again — things the other players already knew.”

But Dawson had a great support staff behind him. Most of Monroe City was praying for Dawson’s comeback.

One of the biggest supporters was Jamar White. The assistant coach on the Panthers team became close to the Shively family over the years.

Mike Dawson had coached White’s oldest son and White also mentored Dawson’s older brother, Gage, on the high school team.

“It just went full circle,” Tracy said of the relationship of Jamar and Dawson. “Jamar has been in our hearts and lives for years and years.”

Dawson admitted White has been like another father to him over the years. It was only fitting, with White on the sidelines, he was the first person Dawson found after the state title clinching interception.

“I love that kid,” White said. “When he made that interception I wanted to run out there on the field with him. There was no better way for that game to end. When he came to the sideline I just said ‘15-0 and I love you.’ Nothing else needed to be said.”

White helped Monroe City win its first football state championship in the 1994 season. He was a defensive back and running back for the 14-0 Panthers. He has remained associated with the program in one way or another since his graduation.

White gave Dawson the ultimate praise.

“He is the best defensive back I have coached and I have been around a lot of great ones here,” the Panthers defensive back coach stated. “If I am picking a team, I want him. Everyone wants a quarterback, but give me Dawson. That kid will run through a brick wall for you.”

White also mentioned seeing the passion Dawson has for the sport helped refuel his fire as well.

“I can tell you Dawson Shively made me love football again,” White said. “Just to see all he has overcome and the fight he put up, it made me love being a coach here at Monroe City. I have two little sons and I hope someday they are like Dawson Shively. That is how much that kid means to me.”