Dion Dawkins had just two Football Bowl Subdivision offers coming out of Rahway High School in New Jersey and Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
The former offensive lineman came to Temple, a program that hasn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 2003. Now he is preparing for this week’s NFL draft, where he will likely be picked in the first three rounds.
As Dawkins stood on the sidelines at Saturday’s Cherry and White game, he was reminded of how far he had come.
“I always set my goals high,” he said. “I planned on achieving every goal that I set. Definitely coming in here, making the NFL was the top goal. First day here, it was a struggle, but it was definitely a long journey, and I’m glad to get where I’m at today.”
Dawkins wasn’t rated by most recruiting sites coming out of Rahway as a defensive lineman in Spring 2012.
After playing a season on the offensive line at Hargrave Military Academy in Fall 2012, Dawkins earned a two-star rating from Rivals.com in 2013. His only FBS offers were from Temple and Cincinnati.
Dawkins played in five games as a freshman at Temple, including two starts, but his season ended after he broke his foot. He earned the starting left tackle job as a sophomore and held the spot for the past three seasons.
“I just wasn’t one of those kids that was five-star or four-star,” Dawkins said. “I was a no-star, and I made a way to find it work. Us Rahway guys and us Jersey guys, we’re not the high-praised athletes, so we just always have to work through, how I would say it, the mud.”
Dawkins was a second-team All-American Athletic Conference selection in 2015 and a first team all-conference selection in 2016.
He also performed well at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he was one of the top 15 performers among offensive linemen in the three-cone drill, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle.
“Yeah, we should get Dion back,” offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said after watching Dawkins at Temple’s Pro Day in March. “I was over at the workout and he’s a beautiful looking dude.”
Most mock drafts project Dawkins as a second-round pick, although some have him going in the first round. CBS Sports ranked Dawkins as the 56th-best player in this year’s draft and the fourth-best offensive guard. Dawkins is not sure if he will play offensive tackle or guard in the NFL.
“I try to stay away from it, but social media, it drags you in,” Dawkins said. “I’m just very excited to see where I end up because it could be anywhere. I could end up on the first day, second day, who knows, even the third day. But wherever I end up, I know it will be the right fit.”
“With the frame, power, agility and mentality to help quickly at tackle or guard, Dawkins looks like a potential Day One starter,” CBS Sports’ Rob Rang wrote.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Dawkins as “a well-schooled, three-year starter who has chance to transition into an early starter.”
Dawkins agrees with the assessment.
“They’re going to get a day-one starter, not just off of ability, but just the work ethic,” Dawkins said. “I’m just going to grind and grind and grind, so I make myself known.”
Dawkins will keep things simple during the draft on Thursday and Friday. His mom wanted him to be with family in Philadelphia when he hears his name called.
“I’m going to enjoy one night with the family, and then after that, it’s back to work,” he said.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.