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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Buddies for a lifetime

Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

Tyrel Dodson is tied for first in interceptions and leads the team in sacks.

Tyrel Dodson could only think of the happiness his loved ones felt at home in Tennessee when the sophomore linebacker ran into the open field after intercepting a slip-screen pass and taking it back 40 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL) last Saturday.
There were days in his past that Dodson had to search a little harder to find that absolute happiness and in high school, he found it in a classmate named William Gawlas – a student in the special education class.
“I used to have a bad day and just go in to P.E., he’d be right there hugging on me,” Dodson said. “It makes me so happy that he’s like that.”
Dodson soon became involved in the Best Buddies program, which forms relationships between volunteers and students with Down Syndrome, at Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee — a suburb southwest of Nashville. From there, his relationship with Gawlas grew tighter.
“He was just bright,” Dodson said of Gawlas. “Every time I looked at him I was like, wow, there’s something about that kid. Me and him became best friends throughout high school and I still talk to him, call him sometimes.”
Named Mr. Tennessee Football his senior season, Dodson said he could always count on Gawlas to be there in the stands on Friday nights.
“William and Tyrel mostly hung out around school together — eating lunch, talking about the week’s game,” Jennifer Beasley, Centennial High School teacher, said. “My favorite thing every football Friday was after the games — win or lose — William had to go to the field and find Ty so he could hug and talk [about] the game. No matter how many people were there to see Ty, he always made time for William.”
Now over 750 miles away from one of his best friends, Dodson said he keeps up with Gawlas through occasional phone calls or texts, but makes sure to see him in person when he comes home to Tennessee.
“When I do get a chance to go back home, I’m always at the high school in the Best Buddies program seeing William,” Dodson said.
Those at Centennial High School are always excited to see Dodson on his return trips.
“When he comes home, he makes sure he has a chance to run by the Transition II class to visit with William and his classmates,” Beasley said.
While away in College Station, Dodson has emerged as the middle anchor of the Aggies’ linebacker corps and currently leads the team in sacks (2.0), tied for the lead in interceptions (2) and is second in tackles (20).
“Dodson has had a solid three games and has flashed at times, but has been a solid MIKE linebacker,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said after Saturday’s win over ULL.
Still, Dodson said he finds inspiration from Gawlas, who cheers him on from back home in Tennessee.
“He keeps me motivated because he might not have the things I have, but he’s just as happy as I am,” Dodson said. “That pushes me every day when I get up. “He just brings light into my life and I love getting to hang out with him.”

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  • Tyrel Dodson and William Gawlas were part of the Best Buddies program at Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee.

    Photo by Courtesy

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