Offensive lineman Dion Dawkins has been chosen as the Bills nominee for the 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the NFL announced Tuesday.
"I try to pour so much love out in the community, and it's always a great feeling to be honored or just noticed for the positive stuff that I do off of the field and not just the stuff on the football field," Dion Dawkins said. "So, it truly is an honor."
The Man of the Year Award, named after the late Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back, Walter Payton, recognizes players for their dedication to the community and their play on the field. One player from all 32 teams, who has a positive impact on his community, is selected as a nominee and will receive up to $40,000 donated to the charity of their choice.
"Dion as a player is one of the better tackles in the National Football League," head coach Sean McDermott said. "He combines size and athleticism and power to make him a formidable left tackle for the Buffalo Bills, and he's done that for a number of years now."
Off the field, Dawkins started the Dion's Dreamers Foundation with the goal of providing mentorship and support to young men and women in underserved communities and to those in a place of mental, physical, and financial hardship. Between hosting events through his Foundation's efforts, and participating in Buffalo Bills and NFL initiatives, Dawkins continues to prioritize his community involvement throughout various neighborhoods in Buffalo.
One community, in particular, felt Dawkins' love and positive energy when it was needed the most. When the tragic mass shooting took place at the Tops Market in East Buffalo on May 14th, 2022, Dawkins and his teammates were quick to help the city recover by supporting the affected families and the East Buffalo community. Following the tragedy, the offensive lineman hosted a cornhole and kickball tournament that raised over $20,000 for the victims which was donated to the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund and the Buffalo Together Community Response Fund.
Almost seven months later, Dawkins is continuing to support underserved communities with necessary recourses. So far this season, he has hosted two teacher appreciation events and participated in the Huddle for Hunger health and wellness day for students in the East Buffalo community.
"I use my platform to help other places shine, and I was thankful to even be accepted into that community of allowing me to just have my presence there," Dawkins said. "For them to accept the Buffalo Bills and myself there, it's truly special. And that just shows why this Buffalo Bills community is so special because the community accepts us, and we accept the community."
For the third consecutive season, Dawkins is a part of the NFL's Inspire Change Campaign. For the 2022 campaign, he hosted a roundtable discussion with teammates and Buffalo Bills legends around racial injustice, how to prevent tragedy from repeating itself, and Buffalo's mass shooting.
Dawkins is also involved with other NFL and organizational initiatives including the Play 60 Challenge, Salute to Service Military and Veteran Appreciation, Crucial Catch Cancer Awareness, and Inspire Change Social Justice Awareness.
Since his rookie year in 2017, Dawkins has always been the first to sign up to attend a community event and has an almost perfect record for "Bills Community Tuesdays." During six years with the Bills, Dawkins has touched the lives of many through Thanksgiving food giveaways, the first High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff Event in WNY, virtual visits with patients at John R. Oishei Children's Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Outreach Day at the Matt Urban Human Services Center and the Lights On! Pep Rally at East Buffalo Highschool, his "Summer Schnowfest," Dion's Dreamers " Touchdowns for Dreamers" Campaign, and more.
"As a person, just to watch Dion grow as a person, grow in terms of who he is outside of our building in the community, in the initiatives he helps lead, I think goes a long way for our football team and those teammates around him to do the same thing," McDermott said.
The winner, who will have $250,000 donated to their selected charity, will be announced at the NFL Honors.