Skip to main content

A fun-loving life saver | The story behind Dion Dawkins' "Shnowman" personality

Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets, Regular Season, November 19, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets, Regular Season, November 19, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.

It might be his big presence, standing tall at 6'5. It might be the trademark noises you hear when he's near. Or, it might be the warm, welcoming smile when he's around. Regardless of what it is, left tackle Dion Dawkins lights up a room the instant he walks into it.

In a room full of strangers, Dawkins will walk out with twenty new friends. That's just the kind of man he is. Just ask linebacker Tyler Matakevich who's known Dawkins for more than 10 years.

"Ever since I first met him when he was 17 or 18 year old, when he walks in the room he's one of those guys who's just got a smile on his face," his former college teammate Tyler Matakevich said. "He just brightens up the room, and having a guy like that around the team, that's all you can ask for."

The Temple product's infectious personality and fun-loving soul is what family, friends and teammates can't get enough of, and it's a big reason why he's having a career year on and off the field.

"He's probably the most impressive teammate I've been around," right tackle Spencer Brown said. "There's not another Dion Dawkins."

The LT is in his seventh season as a Bill and has been in Buffalo since Sean McDermott took over as head coach. Dawkins is one of the foundational pieces to this team, and his presence permeates the locker room in the best way.

"He's been one of the core guys that has been here since McDermott first came in," Matakevich said. "It was him, Matt Milano and Tre'Davious White…he's the reason why the place is the way it is right now."

"He's the heart and soul of this team."

Buffalo Bills vs Dallas Cowboys, Regular Season, December 17, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.


The heart that Dawkins has isn't just for his teammates. It extends beyond the walls of One Bills Drive as the offensive linemen has grown to know countless numbers of Bills fans during his time in Buffalo. The Shnowman has always made it a point to give back to the community, and because of that he's been named Buffalo’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for two years in a row.

From hospital visits to toy drives to school visits, Dawkins has always had a heart for others. He didn't know that one day it would help save a life.

"I don't know what God is using me for, but he's putting me in situations that I'm supposed to be in," Dawkins said recalling that day.

It was Dawkins' rookie season and he was heading to a movie theater on an off day with a few teammates. When the young NFL player was on his way in, he noticed someone was in need of help.

"I went and tried to buy my ticket and started to walk out because I was falling apart," Jim LeGasse said. "This young man walked up to me and asked me how I was. He took me back inside. He helped me buy my ticket. He took me to the concessions and helped me carry my soda and popcorn to my seat."

That young man was Dion Dawkins.

"I didn't know exactly what to do or what to say," Dawkins said. "But there was just an energy that I felt that said he needs me right now in this moment, and I'm going to be present."

LeGasse, the man who needed a helping hand, is a medically retired senior special agent for the US Treasury who worked in organized crime and drug trafficking. He earned a Medal of Valor among other awards and did a lot for our country by infiltrating drug trafficking organizations to take them apart.

Like Dawkins, the Niagara Falls native stands tall at 6'5 and can still squat 660 pounds at the age of 63. No matter how strong or tall, the intense undercover work began to take a toll on LeGasse. Under doctor's orders, LeGasse was instructed to go out into public more frequently as it was something he struggled with. So, he thought going to the movies would be doable on that day.

"At the end of the movie, I was waiting till everybody left before I did because I have some difficulties sometimes," LeGasse explained.

Dawkins was also waiting around at the end of the movie.

"I don't know why but I always think there's a secret message at the end of every movie," Dawkins said of why he stayed longer. "And then I noticed another person sitting there.

"He was sitting there and was kind of shaking. I could just sense that there was something wrong…I asked him if he needed any assistance. And then that's when he started talking about how he's very uncomfortable around people and has bad anxiety. It was a lot for him at that moment."

"He came and got me and walked me out to the car," LeGasse said. "I pulled out my lanyard, which had the Buffalo Bills on it. And he asked me, 'Do you like the Buffalo Bills?' I said, 'Yes of course, everybody likes the Buffalo Bills.' He said, 'Well I'm a Buffalo Bill. My name is Dion Dawkins. It's a pleasure to meet you.' And we stayed in contact after that."

Seven years later, the two still talk, usually via text and Instagram. LeGasse even keeps up with Dawkins' mother regularly.

"I keep full tabs on him," Dawkins said. "He'll comment on family pictures and things. He's real family-like to us now."

"When my mother passed this year, Dion sent me a handwritten condolence letter," LeGasse shared. "He's a football player and he's all these things to all these people, and he took the time to write a hand written letter to me."

LeGasse won't ever forget what Dawkins did for him on that day.

"He was a Godsend," LeGasse said of Dawkins. "You have to understand I was hurting so bad that I was going to do something stupid that day."

Dawkins didn't realize it in that moment, but he saved a life that day.

"He is the epitome of a kindness and sincerity," LeGasse said. "He's a genuine person. I mean who comes up to a guy in his late 50s who's crumbling in a parking lot."

That's just the type of guy that Dion Dawkins is. He didn't think twice about helping LeGasse. He led with his heart.


There aren't many like Dawkins who has the time to be a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle, a father to three and someone who doesn't shy away from showing up for the community.

The left tackle has his own foundation called Dion’s Dreamers that provides mentorship and support to young men and women in underserved communities, as well as those in a place of mental, financial or physical hardship. With his organization, Dawkins has hosted multiple cornhole tournaments, toy drives around Christmas and even a Talent Show with proceeds going to those who need it most.

"That might be more impressive than the play is how he's able to have so much energy and put that energy into the off the field things and how involved he is with everything," Brown said. "And not only that, but he invites all of us to take part in anything that he has going on."

Dawkins does it because he loves to see the impact his helping hand has on the community.

"The simple answer is I'm addicted to seeing organic smiles," Dawkins said of why he spends countless nights volunteering. "Putting smiles on people's faces that are strangers is, I think, love at one of its purest forms. Because for somebody to not know anything about you, and just to meet you for the first time and feel a certain way after five minutes or an hour, it's an addicting feeling."

"He does so much that people don't even see, especially around the holidays," Matakevich said of Dawkins. "I was lucky enough this year to go with to the hospital with him and Jordan Poyer…he's doing it because of the pure love out of his heart. He doesn't want anything out of it. He's just trying to make someone make someone's day, that's him."

Dion Dawkins surprised patients at Oishei Children’s Hospital with holiday gifts, visited with children, and spread holiday cheer, December 18, 2023 at Oishei Children’s Hospital..

Many want to make Dawkins' day by seeing him voted as this year's Walter Payton Man of the Year. To vote for Dawkins, head to

"The platform that we've been given to help not only on the field but also in the community, Dion really embraces that," head coach Sean McDermott said. "He's well deserving of the Walter Payton Man of the Year honor this year in terms of what he's done off the field in the community."

"If you have a guy that can dominate the way he does on the field and have personality he has day in and day out in the facility, that's the best type of teammate," Brown said. "And on top of that can be Walter Payton Man of the Year for our team. He does so much community. He's a very impressive person."

"Not a lot of people are sincere when they give out food, toys or those things but that's from his heart," LeGasse shared. "It's not an act, Dion's a really good person. I get so choked up when I see what he does because I don't think people understand what he has done."

Dawkins says the honor is the highest he can achieve.

"It's one of the biggest things in the football world and even like as a person because it's something that can't be bought, it's something that you don't have to work out for, run the plays or be the strongest to achieve," Dawkins said. "You have to just be truthfully an organically good person. And I think that's what I reflect on, and I'm thankful."


The "Shnowman" as Dawkins likes to call himself, and as it's tattooed across his chest, brings character and swag to a position group that's not known for those types of things.

"Offensive lines are not known for having too much character," Brown said. "But his character's the best part about it…you can be whoever you want to be and Dion's Shnow every day."

'You already Shnow' accompanied by a *skee* and a roll of the tongue are frequent things you hear coming from Dawkins. The reference to snow and why Dawkins ties himself to it dates all the way back to his younger years when he would shovel driveways in New Jersey.

"I would wait for a snow day and then set my alarm extremely early," Dawkins said. "I would wake up and hit doors and ask them if they wanted their driveway shoveled…I call myself the Shnowman because they're the spark of the outside."

The snow-loving, snow shoveling mantra and the noises the come along with it have become a part of his personality. So much so, that his teammates can't help but join in on the fun.

"The noises are starting to rub off on me a little bit too," rookie guard O'Cyrus Torrence said with a laugh. "It's fun. It's just all under the character of him being himself."

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots, Regular Season, at Highmark Stadium, December 31, 2023. Connor McGovern (66), Dion Dawkins (73), Josh Allen (17)


The Shnowman has become the Shnowplow as he's plowed through opposing defenses this year. It's not easy to progressively improve year over year, but Dawkins is proving anything is possible.

"To start the season, I had my mind set on being All-Pro," Dawkins shared. "I said, 'It's about that time for me to turn that page and turn it up.'"

The LT has been named to the Pro Bowl in the previous two seasons and just found out Wednesday night that he's making a third consecutive Pro Bowl.

"It's pretty insane to see him in year seven still being able to do the things that he's doing," Brown said. "I think he's gonna keep doing it for as long as he wants."

One of the individual accomplishments Dawkins hasn't yet added to his mantle is an all All-Pro selection. Several teammates think it's a no brainer Dawkins could earn that nod soon given the season he's had.

"On the field, he's having his best year yet," Matakevich said. "Just watching him just throw guys around there on the field, he's doing it with a big smile on his face. I can't do nothing but smile. I'm so happy.

"I'm living through him. He's getting me pumped up when I see him out there."

So how has Dawkins found a new level to tap into while many are hitting a plateau?

"It's been a lot of soul searching," Dawkins revealed. "I fixed my relationship with God. I've focused more on myself internally, which I'm able to project outwards and give my inner self to the outer world."

The 6'5, 320-lb-mountain of a man also thinks the difference in play is due to how he takes care of his body. Dawkins shared that assistant strength and performance development coach Will Greenberg has been huge in that department by holding the veteran accountable when it comes to staying in shape.

"Will has been that for me this season, and it's shown," Dawkins shared. "I've always been a player that I don't really like to do things by myself when it comes to working. It gets boring like an elliptical gets boring. So I picked up boxing, so we box.

"Boxing was definitely the main thing that has changed in my training. I'm thankful that it literally took me to a different gear."

Kansas City Chiefs vs Buffalo Bills, Regular Season, December 10, 2023 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

His QB is also loving how his blind spot has been protected all season.

"Mindset and mentality wise, it's the best he's ever had," Josh Allen said. "The ways that he takes care of his body, the transition that he's done over the last year and a half mentally is unbelievable. I got a lot of love for him and a lot of respect for him."

"I think of all the players I've played with in my past, Dion's up there in regards to what it means to him to have his teammates backs," center Mitch Morse said. "He fights for the guys around him and he's taken a point of pride in that."

Whether it's on the field or in the community, Dawkins will always be there for those around him.

"This is definitely Dion from day one," Dawkins said of the way he cares for others.

"I think it's a good thing to be addicted to smiles in the world of evil. And seeing people smile and fueled with love is just a one of one experience. It's really one of a kind. And, to me, it's probably one of the best things in the world."

Related Content