BEREA - The area around Phil Dawson's dressing stall looked like the inside of a travel agency Thursday.
Members of the team's equipment staff decorated the area in festive, Hawaiian-style decor. There were streamers running from stall to stall. A nearby wall was covered with a picture of a pink flamingo. Dawson's favorite was a picture of a girl in a grass skirt with his face pasted over her face.
It was done to celebrate Dawson's first selection to the AFC Pro Bowl roster after 14 seasons in the NFL. He and offensive tackle Joe Thomas were named starters in the combined voting of fans, coaches and players.
The Associated Press
In this photo provided by the Cleveland Browns, decorations adorn the dressing area of Browns kicker Phil Dawson. After 14 seasons, Dawson was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
Dawson was a like a kid on Christmas morning in accepting the congratulations of well-wishers. He said he began receiving a steady succession of text messages once the voting was announced Wednesday night on a "NFL Network" special.
"There have been some pretty good moments," Dawson said. "It certainly was special last night with my family. The kids are old enough now to know what this means. Last night was a good one, and today has been great with my teammates."
Dawson is the most successful kicker in Browns' history and now ranks among the best in the history of the NFL. His career average of 84.2 percent ranks first among the 25 kickers with 300 or more field goals.
Dawson has been nearly perfect this season, making 28-of-29 attempts. His lone miss came when a 28-yard attempt was blocked by the Oakland Raiders. Most impressive is his 6-of-6 success rate on kicks of 50 yards or longer.
Many of Dawson's teammates were pleased by his Pro Bowl selection.
"What you have to understand is how tough it is to make the league," linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "What he's gone through and how well he's played throughout his career; he's been through a lot of ups and downs.
"For a guy like that to get that recognition from his peers is a great honor. It goes to a great guy. I'm happy for him. It means the world for a guy to be appreciated for the work he's done."
Dawson joked that because he's a Pro Bowl rookie he'll have to carry Thomas' gear. Thomas has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons in the league.
Thomas is glad that a teammate will be making the trip with him to Hawaii. Like Jackson, he's pleased that Dawson has finally been recognized for his outstanding performances.
"He's a guy that's been passed over several times because we haven't been making playoff appearances," Thomas said. "He's been deserving several years. To finally get it this year is pretty special for me to go out there with him."
While Dawson knows he'll be in Hawaii in late January, he's not certain where he'll call home next season. His contract will expire after this season. The team can no longer retain his services by designating him as its franchise player because he received the designation after each of the last two seasons.
Dawson, who will turn 38 Jan. 23, doesn't want to sign a contract that's longer than the length of time he thinks he can still be effective. He's on record as saying he would welcome a return to Cleveland.
"I know moving forward that whatever term I sign I'm going to be able to out-live it," he said. "I'm not going to be one of those guys that holds on. As long as I feel like I can play at a high level, I'm going to."