MORROW, Ohio – Trent Dawson sings in the select choir, plays piano and listens to Frank Sinatra.
He also has a 3.7 weighted grade-point average, is a standout running back for the undefeated Little Miami High School football team and was recently named the Homecoming King.
Charisma, energy and perseverance are words commonly used around the 18-year-old. Once he enters the school parking lot, the extrovert is ready to seize the day.
The euphoria around the football team's success is palpable. The Panthers (6-0) are off to their best start since 1992.
“It’s fun around school,” Dawson said. “The school spirit is high. It’s awesome. It’s something in my four years being in the school – I have not seen this at all. I hope it stays even after we leave.”
Dawson feels blessed when reflecting upon his journey in life. He was adopted by Dennis and Samantha Braun in 2014. Dawson lives with his adoptive parents and their four biological children - ages 10, 7, 6 and seventh months in Maineville.
"I don't really know that I have any words that can show them how big of a sacrifice that is," Dawson said of his adoptive parents. "You are changing your life from any type of standpoint - financially, mentally and emotionally. You are taking in someone and treating them as your child just because out of sheer love."
Dawson grew up on Paddock Road in Bond Hill and was raised by his great aunt, Gay Griffin, until he was 7 years old. "She was amazing," Dawson said. "She is still the light of my life."
Dawson still carries with him the lessons Griffin taught him. He experienced plenty of family adversity prior to high school.
Dawson moved several times as a youngster and had to often take care of his eight biological siblings. He once considered dropping out of school. He never believed college was an option until he moved to Maineville.
When he was 6, Dennis Braun entered his life as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The two connected well and enjoyed bowling, swimming and other activities for seven years.
"I saw so much good in him," Braun said. "And I continue to see that every day. He's got such a great spirit. I could see that at the time and that's why I wanted to be a part of his life then."
Braun said there were inherent challenges in adopting Dawson knowing his background was something he wouldn't want to wish upon anyone.
“We’re talking about a kid who was at that point where the streets were going to take him,” Dennis Braun said. “It completely turned around now to the fact that now he is looking at colleges. It’s amazing.”
Little Miami coach Nate Mahon is proud of how Dawson has overcome adversity and excelled not only in football but also in school.
“I think what I appreciate the most about Trent is that he’s real,” Mahon said. “He is a rock star at the youth camp every year. When I hear talk about wanting to work with kids, I think he would be perfect because you know he cares.”
Little Miami (6-0, 3-0 Southwest Ohio Conference) is trying to make the postseason for the first time since 1992. The Panthers enter Friday’s game at Harrison (3-3, 2-1) tied for third in the Division II, Region 8 computer points standings.
Dawson, who is 5 feet 9 and 190 pounds, has carried the ball 100 times for 675 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s received interest from NCAA Division III programs like Wittenberg, Hanover and Wilmington.
Dawson has been inspired by the work of Samantha and her work in the oncology department at Jewish Hospital. Eventually, he'd like pursue a pre-med track and possibly work in pediatrics.
“He’s got an engaging personality,” Dennis said. “He connects so well with our other children. He’s got that kind of that rare combination of that personal magnetism that I think draws people to him.”
Dawson is always ready to go on the field. He talks non-stop at practice. He can get into with his offensive linemen, but it’s all in a competitive nature. At the end of the day, the seniors want to hold each other accountable.
“He might be a few screws loose that just keeps him hard-wired all the time,” senior left guard Hunter Fletcher. “But, that guy is always, ‘go, go go.’ During the games he is always super hyped. I would love to have that guy’s energy. He is never tired.”
Sarah Baker, Little Miami High School’s Director of Choral Music, noticed the potential in Dawson when he started choir during the second semester of his junior year. Dawson can sing bass, baritone or tenor.
“He has a lot of talent,” Baker said. “He has a marvelous ear. And I thought, you know what? You need to be doing something more than this. And he was ready to take on the challenge and ended up going to contests with us.”
Dawson is also a natural leader among his classmates. His upbeat personality exudes throughout the school.
“He’s a treat when we go out singing,” Baker said. “He has so much energy and personality. But, at the time he knows when to be professional and when it comes time for our concerts or when we are in our competition he’s the one in the room saying, ‘Come on guys, we’re going to do this.’”
Dawson wants to continue Little Miami's memorable football season with no end in sight. He's grateful for the opportunities he's had within the school district and at home.
“I am waiting for the backlash here because I feel like it’s too good,” Dawson said. “I feel like I have a little bit too much which is never a problem but you have to make sure you share it.”
Braun couldn't be more proud of his son. Dawson is motivated to be at his best while helping others.
“My communication to him has always been the world is out in front of him,” Dennis said “And to pursue the thing that cannot only make you happy but also make the world around you better. To use the gift God has given you to make the world a better place.”