CONYERS -- Brandon Stewart still remembers the first time he laid eyes on Lynden Dawson as an eighth grader.
While Stewart already had a star goalkeeper in place at Heritage, Conner Domaleski, who went on to sign with the University of North Georgia, Stewart knew he had Dawson primed and ready to take over for the start of the 2017 season.
"At a young age, he had raw athleticism," Stewart said. "He had the ability to play against my varsity guys and my varsity guys had instant respect for him as an eighth grader."
Conner got hurt or something one day and the guys said, 'play that kid.' I said, 'we can't play him. he's in the eighth grade.' I think what tells you what you need to know about Lynden and his character. Even him being an elite keeper at that age, he had no problem waiting his turn as a freshman."
After taking over as the Patriots' goalkeeper as a sophomore, Dawson played out his three seasons at Heritage in grand fashion. Chosen as a captain, Dawson went on to turn in elite performances in a Patriot uniform all while earning the attention of collegiate programs.
This past week, Dawson signed his National Letter of Intent to Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, a program he fell in love with after taking a visit in April.
"I took a visit down about a month ago," Dawson said. "When I went down there, everybody was very comforting and open. The team was great. Everyone was making it seem like such a home and that I could be apart of the family. Therefore, I decided join."
An NCAA Division II program located in the Sunshine State conference, Dawson said he hopes to not only make a name for himself as a college goalkeeper, but get a great education in the process.
"My ultimate goal when I get down there will be first of all, making sure that I'm up on my studies," Dawson said. "Second will be getting as good as I can with my craft. I want to make sure I can go as far as I can with this because my legs aren't going to last forever."
There's a lot of room for growth. Honestly, I know I'm not the tallest, but I can still build up strength in my legs and my upperbody. There are still some things that I can learn, decision wise. My decision making can always improve."
Stewart, who has both played with and coached with some of the state's top goalkeepers in his tenure at Heritage, said he would be hard-pressed to not call Dawson one of the best to ever wear the red white and blue.
"We've been very blessed with what's been a goalkeeper factory, almost," Stewart said. "You have to put Lynden in that conversation. In the Top 5, for sure. I think if we had been a little bit more successful on the field, you bump him into the top 1-2. For our 11 years, it's a toss up between Conner and Lynden."
Stewart, who expects Dawson to compete for Eckerd's starting goalkeeper position as a freshman, said he hopes what he was able to learn by waiting his turn behind Domaleski will help Dawson's replacement at Heritage, rising junior Acha Mbanwei, follow in his footsteps.
"Lynden waited and saw the process," Stewart said. "He's played that forward and has taken a real ownership of helping Acha to take over for us and to help him for his moment in a couple of years."