By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Dion Dawkins said to himself over and over he wasn’t going to let his emotions get the best of him. When he heard his name called in the NFL Draft, when he got that phone call from one of the 32 teams, he would act cool, calm and collected.
Then it happened.
In the second round of the NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected Dawkins, the 6-foot-4, 314-pound offensive lineman out of Temple University. And he couldn’t hold back. Surrounded by family and friends at a restaurant in Philadelphia, his emotions won.
“When I heard my name called, I got emotional, very emotional,’’ Dawkins said. “I tried to tell myself I’m going to keep it calm, be cool, but my emotions got the best of me. I definitely showed it to my mother, and father, my sister and my girlfriend and my friends. I was emotional, but also very thankful.’’
All the hard work Dawkins has put in through the years, from Rahway High School in New Jersey to his four years at Temple, and even before all of that, had paid off. He was going to the NFL.
For Dawkins, who is already being penciled in as a starter at right tackle for the Bills’ new coaching staff, it’s more than just his success story. After the first wave of emotion, he thought of others. And what it could do for future players down the road.
“It’s definitely a dream come true for me,’’ he said. “And I think about stuff totally different. Because my name got called, I know that it has opened so many doors for guys who will try to get where I am. And it will give guys so much hope. I’m a guy from a small town, like Rahway, and to make it, it’s special.
“That moment I was very emotional, like I said. But then once I realized what just happened, I was, ‘Oh my gosh so many lives are going to change because of what I’ve achieved.’ Kids are going to be inspired to go out and get it done. The guys at Temple saw me go out and work hard every day, doing things right and doing what it takes. The guys have someone they can look to, or call, and I’ll be there.’’
Dawkins played in 46 games for the Owls in his four years and started 41 of them at left tackle for a team that put up consecutive 10-win seasons in 2015 and 2016. It marked Temple’s first 10-win season since 1979, and only the second and third time in the program’s history they recorded double-digit wins.
That ended with the Owls’ loss to Wake Forest in the Military Bowl. For Dawkins, however, it was just the beginning.
“After Temple, at first, I had to figure out what I was going to do, as far as hiring an agent and where I would train,’’ he said.
He decided on Pensacola, Florida and stayed there from the end of the college season through the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he was named the top offensive linemen to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
And then came the draft.
“That week leading up to the Draft was something special,’’ Dawkins said. “It was fun. Once (the Draft) starts is when it gets nervous. Because you see guys go, and you think ‘I should be next.’ Or, ‘I should go here.’ You know what teams like you, so you have some idea and then if they don’t take you, you start to wonder.’’
Rumors fly around the Draft and the players hear the same things, this team wants this guy, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. All it takes is one surprise pick or one trade and all bets are off.
“To be truly honest I thought I was going to the (Atlanta) Falcons. When they moved up, and I didn’t get the call, I was kind of like, OK, now I’m lost. But I believe God works in mysterious ways and I’m in Buffalo for a reason. Being here it’s different, but I can say this is best for me and everything is going great.’’