Sports

Dawnson-Brents returns to Charlotte for Belk Bowl

Louisville’s Nick Dawson-Brents has been dealing with a big problem this week: finding extra tickets for Tuesday’s Belk Bowl.

Not for himself – Dawson-Brents will be on the field at Bank of America Stadium – but for his family and friends.

That’s just one of the few downsides Dawson-Brents has from playing in his hometown for the first time since his high school days at the Philip O. Berry Academy.

“I need more tickets,” Dawson-Brents said. “I’ve probably gotten about 18 so far, but I need more. I’ve got family coming in from the Louisville area to see me play, and I’ve got family around here.

“It’s the first time my grandmother (Cynthia Ford) is going to see me play college football. It’s also the first time my daughter (Brooke Dawson) is going to see me play, and she just turned 1 last week. It’s a big week for me.”

Dawson-Brents, a 6-foot-3, 257-pound redshirt sophomore linebacker, is one of two Charlotte-area players on the Cardinals’ roster for Tuesday’s game against 13th-ranked Georgia. Isaac Stewart is a freshman linebacker from Butler High.

Dawson-Brents was a four-star middle linebacker at Berry, earning Associated Press all-state and U.S. Army All-American honors, and racking up more than 360 career tackles in three seasons as a starter. He chose Louisville – then coached by Charlie Strong – from 15 offers, including ACC schools Clemson, Maryland, N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Dawson-Brents was forced to redshirt his first year after missing most of the Cardinals’ preseason workouts following the death of his father, Jacque Brents, who was in a motorcycle accident in Louisville.

“It happened two days into camp,” Dawson-Brents said. “I missed pretty much the whole camp. I’ve never had to do that (sit out a season) before, but it helped me grow as a man and as an athlete.

“It kept me humble, ready to go out there every day and work harder, just so I could try to play even though I knew I wasn’t going to play. But they were going to need me for the future.”

Dawson-Brents saw his first game action in 2013, appearing in 12 games and recording 14 tackles – including 3.5 for a loss – and his first collegiate sack. That team finished 12-1, ranked 15th in the nation and beat Miami 36-9 in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

This season, Louisville had a new head coach – Bobby Petrino, who took over after Strong left to coach Texas – and a new coaching staff, and Dawson-Brents has been adjusting to a new position.

While still listed as an outside linebacker, Dawson-Brents also plays as a down lineman in certain 3-4 defensive sets. That’s caused his numbers to suffer – in 11 games, he’s made four tackles, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.

Dawson-Brents said he doesn’t care which position he plays Tuesday, as long as he gets into the game.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Dawson-Brents said. “It’s great to be home, and playing in front of my family and friends. It’s a great feeling – almost like I’m back in high school.”

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