Dion Dawkins joined elite company when he stepped onto the field for the Owls’ first series against the University of Idaho on Sept. 28, 2013.
He became one of only four freshmen in Division I to start at left tackle that season. The group includes former University of Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, the 13th overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft.
Dawkins’ name was called on Friday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Buffalo Bills selected him with the 63rd overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bills traded up, making a deal with the Atlanta Falcons, to select Dawkins.
“They’re going to get a day-one starter, not just off of ability, but just the work ethic,” Dawkins said of the team that drafts him after Saturday’s Cherry and White game. “I’m just going to grind and grind and grind, so I make myself known.”
After starting his first career game against Idaho, Dawkins started at right tackle the following week against the University of Louisville. Just as it looked he had cemented a starting spot, he season ended when he broke his foot against the Cardinals.
Dawkins earned the starting left tackle spot in 2014 and did not let go. He only missed three games in the last three seasons. Dawkins earned first-team American Athletic Conference honors in 2016 and an invitation to January’s Senior Bowl in Alabama, where he played guard. A panel of scouts and Senior Bowl staffers voted Dawkins as the most impressive offensive lineman in Senior Bowl practices.
Dawkins played a prep-school year at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia after he graduated from Rahway High School in New Jerseyl. He earned a two-star rating from Rivals.com in Spring 2013 and only received Division I offers from Temple and Cincinnati.
After practice on Nov. 1, former coach Matt Rhule said Dawkins blocking former linebacker and defensive lineman Haason Reddick in practice made each player better. Dawkins got to put the team’s American Athletic Conference championship trophy in the case at Edberg-Olson Hall after the Owls returned from Maryland.
“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.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling. Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews and @TTN_Sports.