2024 CFL Draft profiles: Concordia DB Dawson Pierre not worried about possible position switch

Photo courtesy: Concordia Athletics

Dawson Pierre is staring down a possible position change in the CFL but that is nothing new for the hulking Concordia safety.

Standing at six-foot-two and 219 pounds, most scouts view the native of Longueuil, Que. as a professional linebacker prospect, better suited to mixing it up in the box than covering over the top. It makes little difference to Pierre, who has rarely stayed in one spot throughout his football career.

“I’ve moved around my whole life. I can play anywhere really, it’s not something that bothers me too much,” he told 3DownNation in an interview earlier this offseason. “I have the size, the speed, and the athleticism to play safety. I can go down in the box and be physical enough to play SAM linebacker, to play WILL linebacker. It really depends on what teams are looking for.”

When he first started playing football at the age of eight, it was size that was the most important asset he possessed. Indeed, Pierre might be the only defensive back in the 2024 CFL Draft class to get his start as an offensive and defensive lineman. Eventually, he moved back from the line of scrimmage and saw action as both a running back and linebacker.

During his final years of high school, he moved to California and kicked out to wide receiver, earning all-star honours for Redondo Union. However, outside linebacker was where most schools saw his future and that’s where he focused his attention after moving home to attend Vanier College.

Several major colleges expressed interest in Pierre in the same role he may now play as a pro, with Buffalo, Rutgers, UConn, UMass, and Michigan all kicking the tires without making an offer. Like many Canadian prospects, he originally committed to the University of Maine at the FCS level but was forced to leave the school and return home due to family issues.

Pierre has taken those speed bumps in stride and has no regrets regarding the loss of his NCAA opportunity.

“I don’t see it as disappointing, I see it as a life lesson and a beautiful experience,” he said. “I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and I am happy with everything that I’ve learned. It doesn’t really matter if I would have stayed there or went somewhere else, I feel like I still would have learned the same way to be the man that I am today, on and off the field.”

Pierre originally planned to join the Carleton Ravens but the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled that season and caused him to reconsider. The Stingers were calling him home and he transferred to the program where he first fell in love with the sport while watching his brother play.

Nicolas-Emmanuel Pierre, nearly 10 years Dawson’s senior, was the one who inspired his younger sibling to strap on the pads while he played at Concordia. It was watching his brother that laid the foundation for his future success.

“He taught me the good and the bad, brought me into the game young but made sure I would have a better understanding than most of the kids my age,” Pierre said. “He definitely helped prepare me for the next level at a young age.”

After a season of adjustment, Pierre was moved to safety and broke out with the Stingers in 2022. He was named the team’s defensive MVP and an RSEQ all-star at the position, providing a physical mismatch on the backend.

That involved battling it out with some of the top receivers in the country, namely Hec Crighton trophy winner Kevin Mital. Pierre describes facing off against the big-bodied Laval target as a “clash of titans” and insists they both got their licks in, despite the numbers skewing in Mital’s favour.

The seeds of those matchups were laid in practice, where Concordia’s own elite receiving corps was enough to push any young defensive back to the brink. Blue Bombers’ draft pick Jeremy Murphy led the way in 2022 and was replaced by a new top prospect in Ezechiel Tiede the next year, along with an impressive list of complimentary targets.

“A lot of those guys were A1 receivers and they’ll really prep you for any situation,” Pierre credited. “They say iron sharpens iron, so it was good to go up against those guys every day in practice.”

While Pierre’s production dipped slightly in 2023, Concordia got markedly better, jumping from two wins to five while upsetting the eventual Vanier Cup champion Montreal Carabins in the regular season. Over 23 career games with the program, he posted 81 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and three interceptions.

With his unique frame potentially offering him a foot in the door, Pierre contemplated taking another shot at the NCAA like several U Sports players have over the past several years. Ultimately, he decided to stay put in Montreal.

“It’s always at the back of my mind, especially given my route and having had a lot of NCAA Power Five schools talking to me before coming back home to play in Canada,” he explained. “But I found my groove at Concordia. I found myself, I found a family, and it was just great to be there.”

Instead, his pre-draft process has involved repeatedly measuring himself against American prospects. He turned heads at both the FCS Bowl and College Gridiron Showcase all-star games because of his size and recently performed for NFL scouts at the University at Buffalo pro day, posting some intriguing numbers.

Up next is the CFL Combine, where all nine franchises will get a chance to decide where Pierre fits best for them. While his value as a special teams contributor virtually assures he’ll be drafted, scouts are split on whether there is a full-time defensive role in his future.

A strong week in Winnipeg could send him soaring up draft boards, though Pierre is happy that the rise hasn’t happened quite yet.

“I feel like that underdog look has always been part of my lifestyle. My whole life, I’ve been overlooked a little bit,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I truly think it was a beautiful thing because it helped me flourish into the place I am today and helped me play with a chip on my shoulder.”

The 2024 CFL Draft is scheduled for April 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.