By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
When one door closes, another opens. Nathan Dodson knows that as well as anyone and the former Palisades High quarterback is embarking on a new career at Menlo College – only this time on the diamond, not the gridiron.
Dodson felt confident he’d win the starting quarterback spot for the Oaks this fall but his destiny changed forever on Feb. 1.
“We’re sitting on the couch in my apartment on Super Bowl Sunday and literally five minutes before kickoff one of my teammates got an email saying the program was cut for budgetary reasons,” Dodson recalled. “Of the 85 guys on the roster, 50 transferred. I decided I wasn’t going to leave unless I got a really good opportunity.”
As fate would have it, the best opportunity was right on campus. Dodson, who has two years of eligibility left, tried out for the baseball team and made it. He’ll be playing outfield in the spring.
“My freshman year [in football] we were .500 and we never got above that,” Dodson said. “In baseball, though, we’re a rising program so I’m excited. I hadn’t played baseball in about five years but it’s like riding a bike – you never forget.”
Dodson, who attended Canyon Elementary and Paul Revere Middle School, grew up playing in the Pacific Palisades Baseball Association, making numerous All-Star teams and traveling to Cooperstown, NY for the annual Dreams Tournament. He moved to the Highlands the summer before ninth grade and went on to play catcher for two years on the Dolphins’ JV baseball team under coach Leo Castro.
However, football proved to be his calling and after starting on JV as a sophomore, he became the varsity starter in 2010, throwing for 484 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Dolphins to the City Section Division II semifinals under new coach Perry Jones.
“That was my favorite year, even though I didn’t get to throw much because we ran the option,” Dodson said. “We had [running back] Malcolm Creer, who went on to Colorado. There was nothing like that – especially after going 1-9 the year before.”
Dodson tore his labrum in the second game of his senior year against Santa Monica but rehabbed five to six hours a day and still played in eight games. He still keeps in touch with several teammates, including Maurquice Shakir, now a right tackle at Middle Tennessee State.
“They play Alabama in Week 2, so I told him to get me one of those blindside hits and my life will be made,” Dodson said.
At Menlo, an NAIA program in Atherton (near San Francisco), Dodson played in 10 of 11 games as a redshirt sophomore and threw two touchdown passes against Sacramento State in his first collegiate start. His defining moment, however, came two weeks before against Simon Fraser, when the starter left with a concussion midway through the first quarter.
“I’d waited for my shot, my time came and I took advantage of it,” said Dodson, who threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:02 left. “I remember our wide receivers coach saying ‘You’re going to do something really special today.’”
Before heading back to school Dodson is mentoring his younger brother Jared, who is competing for the starting quarterback job on Pali High’s JV squad. His other brother Alec, who also played for the Dolphins, graduated in 2014 and is now a sophomore at Cal Poly Pomona.
“Until I got to college there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on the mental aspect of the game,” said Dodson, an accounting and finance major. “Once I learned pre-snap reads and progressions the game became so much more fun.”
At 5-9, Dodson is small by today’s standards, but has proved skill and smarts often trump size.
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