SAN JOSE — When Jomon Dotson decided to transfer from the University of Washington to the University of Nevada-Reno to finish his college football career, he envisioned a larger role on the team and an opportunity to be closer to his American Canyon home.
Eleven games in, it’s safe to say he’s flourished for the Wolf Pack with more responsibility and the support of his nearby family.
“It means a lot for my family to see me play,” Dotson said after racking up four tackles to help the Wolf Pack improve to 7-4 with a 21-12 win over San Jose State on Saturday afternoon. “I went up to ‘U-Dub’ and it’s far from home. I finally get to play somewhere that’s closer and they can all come out and support.
“I was actually tailgating in the parking lot with them earlier before the game. I love my family, I’ve got great support from them and that means a lot to me. Just to look at them in the stands gives me motivation out there.”
Dotson estimated that about 25 family members showed up to watch him play against San Jose State, and the added motivation he gets from their support has helped the graduate transfer perform at a high level all year.
With one regular-season game left to play, Dotson leads his team with 51 solo tackles — a remarkable feat for a defensive back, let alone a cornerback. Dotson also ranks third at Nevada in total tackles with 60 – assisted and solo combined – and he’s added two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
“He’s getting more opportunity to fulfill the final ending of his college career and it’s good to see all that he’s had in him,” Dotson’s father, Joe Dotson, said. “To watch him fulfill a dream that he had starting out as a kid come to fruition has been a big blessing for the family.”
After his eye-popping season statistics were brought to his attention, Jomon Dotson showed how humble of a player he truly is.
“Oh wow,” he smiled. “I have that many?”
When asked how he had amassed such a rare stat line for his position, the intensity in his voice shifted.
“My mindset is to go all out,” he said with a determined look. “It’s my last year, so why not? The ball’s in the air? Go and attack it. Somebody running it to my side? Go and attack it.”
With such an unwavering mindset, Dotson’s eventual breakout felt inevitable to those close to him. But a college career filled with adversity has helped him achieve a leave-everything-on-the-field mentality.
Originally committed to the University of Washington to play running back after a dominant career at American Canyon High, Dotson converted to the cornerback position prior to his junior season in order to see the field more often.
Although Dotson played in all 13 of the Huskies’ games last season, he never found a consistent role on a crowded depth chart.
“At first it was actually difficult because I’m used to running forward,” Dotson said of the positional change. “I’ve evolved tremendously. I was able to adapt over the years during the offseason working on my craft and now I’m here where I’m at, having a starting role at a different school making plays out there at defensive back.”
At 5-10 and a stout 180 pounds, Dotson doesn’t look all that physically imposing compared to many of the bigger, taller outside receivers he matches up against on a week-to-week basis. But his athletic measurables are off the charts and more than make up for any size differential he may encounter.
Last winter, he tested highest among all University of Washington players at the Husky Combine with a 4.32 40-yard dash time, 40.5-inch vertical jump, and 11-foot, 1.5-inch broad jump, according to a March 11 report from seattletimes.com.
That NFL-level athleticism has earned him the nickname “Mr. Cheetah” from some of his new teammates and made him an attractive candidate for a starting spot in Nevada head coach Jay Norvell’s defense once Norvell had heard of his desire to transfer.
“An incredible player,” Norvell said of Dotson. “Just has come in and just been unselfish. Done a tremendous job for us at corner. He’s got great speed. He covers really well. But just his consistency, I think, has been so important for us. That’s the biggest thing that we are getting from our defense, is consistent play.”
Norvell was also complimentary of Dotson’s ability to step into a role and help lead the team from Day 1.
“Tremendous leadership,” the coach said. “You know, that was one of the things that we really needed from our secondary, was experience and leadership and he’s given us consistent play back there.
“For him as a senior to transfer and fit in as well as he has, has just made a huge impact on our defense.”
That impact has helped Nevada go from 2-9 last season to bowl eligible this year, with a realistic shot at winning nine games.
Now Dotson is hoping that his performance and all-around impact on the Nevada program this season can catch the eye of NFL scouts.
After his team wraps up its season with a Nov. 24 rivalry game against UNLV and a looming bowl game, Dotson says he hopes to receive an invite to compete in an NFL draft prospect showcase.
“I do want to get into the Senior Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA (Collegiate Bowl),” he said. “I do want to have my opportunity and have my shot there and show them what I can do.
“I want to go to the next level and I think if they give me the opportunity, I don’t want to let them down. I want to go out there and show my abilities.”
Whether or not Dotson’s playing career continues after this season, his father said the most important accomplishment of Dotson’s college career was earning his degree.
Dotson earned his undergraduate degree in sociology at University of Washington and is currently furthering his education by pursuing a master’s degree in justice management.
“The stats don’t really move me or excite me. My excitement came when I watched him walk across the stage and obtain his college degree,” Joe Dotson said. “In football, you’re one play away from getting hurt. But your college degree will stick with you for life, so that’s what moves the family more.”
Despite his focus on his career and the crossroads he faces as a football player and as an academic in the near future, Dotson said he still finds time to keep up with the happenings of his high school alma mater. He set school records with 60 rushing touchdowns, 374 points scored, 4,976 rushing yards and 5,499 all-purpose yards for American Canyon.
“I actually have been following (the football program) and hopefully I can go out there and see them soon. I know they’ve got a game coming up against Rancho Cotate,” he said of Saturday night’s rescheduled CIF North Coast Section playoff quarterfinal in Rohnert Park, “so hopefully they keep doing well and I can go out to one of their games and watch them play.”
Although he was a Husky for the bulk of his college career, Dotson will end his college career the same way he ended his high school career — as a member of the Wolf Pack.
“It’s Wolf Pack either way. Nevada Wolf Pack, AC Wolf Pack, I just can’t get rid of the Wolf Pack! It keeps coming back to me and I love it.”