Note: The following appears in the Notre Dame football gameday program.
Since 2013, Head Coach Dabo Swinney has presented the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award to a former Tiger who has consistently demonstrated the qualities of leadership, community service and other high qualities that are consistent with excellence since graduating from Clemson.
Dawkins won the first Clemson Lifetime Achievement Award and has continued to represent the university with dignity in his post-playing career. He became the first former Tiger inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
This year’s recipient is truly someone close to Dawkins’ heart. You could make the case that Dawkins would not have come to Clemson had it not been for Patrick Sapp. In fact, Dawkins made that statement during the announcement of the award.
Sapp was a highly recruited quarterback from Jacksonville, Fla. in the early 1990s. In the process of recruiting Sapp, Clemson coaches became impressed with Dawkins, Sapp’s close friend and teammate on the gridiron and the basketball court at William M. Raines High School.
This long-standing close relationship was one reason Sapp was emotional about winning the award, especially the day of the Clemson football postseason banquet last January.
“I was surprised how emotional I was at the banquet,” admitted Sapp. “Seeing all the people there who had meant a lot to me for many years at Clemson gave me a lot of self-reflection. Having grown up with Brian, I was honored to celebrate his image by winning this award.
“Brian and I go back to the seventh grade. We rode the same school bus in middle school and played on the same AAU teams and the same basketball and football teams.
“But on top of that, my family was at the banquet, including my son, Josh, who is on the Clemson football team now, and my youngest son, Miles. It was a surreal moment.”
In 1992, they both entered Clemson, Sapp as a quarterback and Dawkins as a defensive back.
Sapp must be considered one of the finest all-around athletes at Clemson since college football adopted the two-platoon substitution system in 1965. In the last 50 years, Sapp is one of just six players to start over the course of a season on both sides of the ball. Sapp is the only Tiger on record to total 2,000+ passing yards on offense and 50+ tackles on defense in a career.
He also played on the Clemson basketball team for Head Coach Rick Barnes during the 1994-95 season.
A quarterback for the Tigers his first three years, Sapp led Clemson to a 33-point win over a top-20 North Carolina squad as a freshman in 1992, then threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Terry Smith to beat Kentucky by one point in the 1993 Peach Bowl.
In 1995, Sapp moved to linebacker, where he started 12 games for the Gator Bowl team. He finished that season fifth on the squad in tackles (53), including nine tackles for loss. In the spring of 1996, despite playing just one season on defense, Sapp was the No. 50 overall selection of the NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.
Sapp played the 1996 and 1997 seasons with the Chargers and the 1998 and 1999 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He finished his career with 100 tackles, including a career-high 35 tackles during his final season.
After graduation, Sapp returned to Clemson to work in university administration in 2006 as director of major gifts & alumni engagement. He served in that role for 14 years.
Today, he is vice president of development for Rosemont Holdings Skore Hotel. He is also CEO of Universal Therapeutic Services in Greenville, S.C., a company that partners with the community to provide human resource services, including mental health.
Additionally, Sapp has been involved in many community service projects. He served as chair of Leaders R Us in Greenville. He is the co-founder of the Greenville Red Raider Youth Organization and is a founder of the One Clemson Board. He also served as a board member of Greenville Technical College and serves as board chair for the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation.