Hanahan's Cooper Dawson shares National Signing Day spotlight with friend, Kingsley Feinman
It was supposed to be a climax of a friendship that was forged in the hallways of Hanahan High School when Cooper Dawson and Kingsley Feinman met as freshmen. The bond was taken to a higher level their senior year when Dawson suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss his final season as a member of the Hawks’ football team.
The injury also caused Dawson to re-examine his priorities, and Feinman had a role in Dawson’s outlook on life.
Feinman, a Daniel Island resident, taught Dawson one of life’s greatest lesson: “The only disability is a bad attitude,” as Dawson fought the physical and mental scars associated with surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Born with cerebral palsy, Feinman is a paraplegic and is wheelchair bound. But he doesn’t feel sorry for himself, and he prefers if you would do the same. He just wants to be one of the guys.
The lesson turned out to be a national sensation on National Signing Day with video of Dawson’s decision to play football for the Syracuse Orangemen going viral. This wasn’t just a story out of Hanahan and about football. This was a national story, and it was about how we should live life, how we should treat our fellow man.
On Wednesday, he was a major player in college football on National Signing Day.
Dawson was set to announce his college matriculation plans, and was joined on stage by Feinman.
“I brought Kingsley out here today because he’s inspired me a lot,” Dawson told the crowd.
Dawson whispered his decision to Feinman, who then announced it to the world.
“He’s going to Syracuse!” said Feinman.
Both of the young men then sported Syracuse caps and smiles with enough energy to light up a Christmas tree decorated by Clark Griswold.
ESPN, on its Facebook Page, proclaimed, “This might be the best commitment video you’ve ever seen” as it shared a video of the signing shot by Scott Eisberg, the sports anchor of ABCNews4. Dawson might have been down because of his injury, but was never out thanks to the inner strength Feinman provided.
While recruiting junkies might have heard only that Dawson signed with Syracuse, the real message was much more than that.
“He taught me that the only disability is a bad attitude,” said Dawson, as Kinglsey sat by his side. “If he can come around every day with this big old smile on, I can do it just the same.”
The story went viral. Eisberg’s Facebook post of the video had 838 likes, 62 comments, 665 shares and 55,000 views by early the next morning. ESPN’s share of Eisberg’s video was overwhelming. ESPN’s Facebook post had 27,000 likes, 775 comments, 13,176 shares and 2.3 million views.
Yahoo Sports ran with the story, and it even hit the tabloids. The New York Post called it a “5-star signing ceremony.” CBS.com also picked up the story.
The friends for life met as freshmen at Hanahan.
“I saw him coming down the hallway, and he stuck out,” Dawson said. “He stuck out not because he was in a wheelchair, but because of his smile. Here was a kid I had to meet.”
The two became friends and hit it off from Day 1. Feinman’s parents offered Dawson a job, which was to help take care of their son.
He didn’t want the money. He wanted friendship.
“I just wanted to be with him and do what guys do,” Dawson said. “We hung out with the girls. We did a ding-dong and ditch. Boy, there were some surprised people. And I got him to come to Homecoming.”
This was about two friends, but it also was about two families, who were blessed in different ways.
Dawson’s sister, Haley, was filled with pride on her brother’s big day.
“My brother has a heart of gold and this was such an awesome moment for the both of them,” she said in a Facebook post. “Kingsley has been a huge part of Cooper’s life for four years now. They went to prom together and spent almost every day together over the summer so Coop knew for months that he wanted to make him a part of his special day… Our family is overwhelmed with the love and support he has received. Thank you all for the kind words, so proud to see my brother’s dream come true.”
And, perhaps, mom knows best. Jennifer Feinman also posted on Facebook as the story went viral.
“So blessed to be Kingsley’s mom and honored to know Cooper Dawson and his beautiful family,” she said. “Thank you Cooper for sharing Kingsley’s love of life and effervescent spirit with the world. You are a cherished friend whose future is as bright as the sun.”