Before the focus fully turns to next weekend's AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills organization pauses to recognize an influential holiday that is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The federal holiday falls on the third Monday in January, and this year it lands on the day after King's birthday. January 16 is the day to celebrate and reflect on how the civil rights leader and activist made a lasting impact on the United States of America.
"Monday is a way to give credit to our forefathers or the OGs," OL Dion Dawkins said. "It's like a chain reaction, and he's one of the big names with a big impact. It just kind of trickles and just keeps trickling. We're going to honor it for what it is, we're going to respect it for what it is, and we're going to keep going in honor of MLK."
In the words of Martin Luther King, "Greatness is determined by service; you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love." King's powerful words and instrumental actions reflect his dedication to serving the people around him. And to ensure his commitment to the community continued to inspire others to follow in his lead, in 1994, MLK Day officially became the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.
That dedication influences Buffalo Bills and other members of the NFL community who are committed to moving towards a more equal and just tomorrow through the NFL's Inspire Change campaign. As a way to come together as an NFL family, the campaign supports community organizations focused on education, economic advancement, police-community relations, and criminal justice reforms.
"It gives us the platform to be able to give back to our communities, give back to whatever charities and foundations that we love and adore and to be a part of," S Micah Hyde said. "I think we're all very blessed to be able to give back, and a lot of guys in this locker room and in our league do so."
Hyde and Dawkins, who give back to the Buffalo community through charity softball games and cornhole tournaments, are members of the Player Community Leadership Committee which supports the efforts of the campaign. And the 2022 Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, Dawkins believes that giving back to the community is one of the most important things anyone, especially those in the NFL, can do.
"I feel like as an athlete, that's just kind of in our job description," Dawkins said. "We have to do our part and that really inspires other people to want to do so too. When you get in and help your city, then somebody else feels like maybe I should do it. It kind of just becomes that chain reaction like I mentioned."
During this year's Inspire Change game day celebration in December, the Bills recognized local non-profits who work to aid Buffalo's youth. The following organizations received a combined of $325,000 in grants that will be used towards expanding their respective programs which were designed to develop more equitable opportunities, build a strong sense of community, provide a platform to participate in meaningful conversations, and more.
"It means the world that somebody will be grateful and thankful after getting help," Dawkins said. "Everybody could use some assistance and whether it's something small or f it's something big, it's something that's going to make somebody smile. So, I think with little things like this, it continues to add gas to whatever car they have going, and it'll just keep that car driving a little bit more."