Taking on the Shnow with Dion Dawkins

Taking on the Shnow with Dion Dawkins

How Buffalo’s Pro Bowl tackle keeps cool all winter
Kip Doyle
Dion Dawkins

Who shnows more about winter than the “Shnowman” himself, Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl left tackle Dion Dawkins?  

From chilly Rahway, N.J., to the gridiron at Temple University in Philadelphia, and now for the past six seasons with the Bills, Dawkins has embraced playing in the snow both on and off the field.  

An animated, charismatic fixture on the team, Dawkins recently spoke with AAA about his warm approach to the coldest time of the year.  


Becoming the Shnowman 

The son of a “car guy,” Dawkins said he grew up counting on AAA for help with flat tires, cracked windshields, and dead batteries in the winter. Dawkins would even go on to provide his own public service that would make any AAA Roadside Technician proud.  

While in grade school, Dawkins said he would wake up early to find out if school was cancelled due to bad winter weather. He wasn’t just looking for a day off – if school was cancelled, Dawkins would go outside and make some “shmoney,” as he calls it.  

“I’d wake up early, grab a shovel, double up on socks, put dad’s boots on, and I would knock on doors and ask people if they wanted their car started to get it nice and warm,” Dawkins said.  

For a fee, Dawkins would also clear snow off cars and shovel driveways and sidewalks.  

“I went to work, and it was just the prime time for people not to say, ‘No,’” he said. “So, I was just in that mode where I would make my bread and butter.” 

The 6’5”, 320 lbs. Dawkins said his snow day side hustle inspired his “Shnowman” moniker and “You already shnow” catchphrase. 


Holiday traditions

Dion Dawkins

Winter wasn’t all business for the young Dawkins. He warmly remembers spending time outdoors with his four older siblings and childhood friends building snowmen, having snowball fights, sledding, and riding DIY snowboards made of cardboard. 

When the Christmas season arrived, Dawkins remembers touring wealthy neighborhoods in nearby Milton Lake, N.J. and being stunned by the holiday light displays and decorations. Those memories inspired the way he decorates his own home today.  

“I go all out now. Everything that I enjoyed seeing as a kid, I do now. With the trimming on the house and the Christmas lights,” Dawkins said. “Then the inside, it's just little elves on the fireplace and the stocking and all that stuff. And in the fridge, it’s eggnog and apple cider.” 

As the winter cold and NFL playoffs approach, Dawkins and his teammates tend to buckle down at home, “hibernating” with video games and warm meals.  

“Towards the end of the football season, we try to conserve as much energy as possible,” Dawkins said. “So, the fun that we do have is at the facility with our teammates, whether we're having a snowball fight or wrestling in the snow.” 


Playing, and driving, through the winter

Dion Dawkins

Dawkins has played through his fair share of cold, snowy games in Orchard Park, including the famous “Snow Bowl” during his rookie year in 2017. A lake-effect snowstorm blanketed the region in nearly 17 inches of snow. Playing in near white out conditions, Dawkins would block for running back LeSean McCoy on the game winning touchdown in overtime, sealing the 13-7 victory.  

Having played his entire career in the Northeast, Dawkins has his own methods for staying warm and ready on the football field. 

“Me personally, I try to stay as lightly dressed as possible, which is weird. I wear one Under Armour, and then on the sideline, I try to stay as warm as I can before we get on the football field,” Dawkins said, pointing out that additional layers would limit his mobility. “I have my hands literally in front of the heater near the benches where it's just blowing hot air the whole time.” 

The Bills are widely considered a “cold weather team” due to the frigid temperatures, wind, and snow that hit the region each winter. The team’s veterans may have cold weather experience, but the same can’t be said for all the newer players. First round draft pick Kaiir Elam of Florida told Dawkins that he had never even seen snow in person.   

“(Elam) asked me what the process was to get (his car) ready for the winter, and I told him most (players) get their undercoat on their car and usually get a vehicle that has four-wheel drive. Most people really don't even understand that,” Dawkins said. “Driving in the snow is probably one of the things that you have to develop faster than anything else.” 

Dion Dawkins

Dawkins drives through Buffalo winters in his 2020 Ford F-150 Roush Raptor. He got the truck after being influenced by an interaction with former teammate Wyatt Teller, now of the Cleveland Browns.  

“Growing up in Jersey, Escalades, GMCs, Tahoes… those were what we called ‘trucks’. Then Wyatt Teller said, ‘Dion, that’s not a truck’ and he chuckled,” Dawkins said. “He had a huge truck with a long bed. That’s when I got in his truck and said, ‘Oh yeah, this is for sure ‘a truck’” 

Dawkins’ Raptor features a powerful engine, 18-inch wheels, and four-wheel drive. The truck has been reliable even through the harshest of winter conditions.  

“It’s a truck that has all the style points, plus it has the gritty-gritty of having a truck that lets you move how you want,” he said. 

With a Mercedes-Benz X-Class and a Mustang GT500 in his collection as well, Dawkins said that his interest in car culture is shared with his teammates. When ranking who the top driver on the team is, Dawkins is proud to claim himself as No. 1. But what about the worst driver on the Bills? 

“The worst driver is probably Siran Neal,” Dawkins said with a wink. “Siran Neal thinks that he's an IndyCar driver. He is not.” 


Goodbye Pro Bowl game. Hello dodgeball?

The NFL recently announced a major change to the Pro Bowl, the annual game where the league's top players square off in a battle between the AFC and NFC. The game itself, which traditionally took place in Hawaii after the Super Bowl, will be replaced with a weeklong skills competition. 

Dawkins, who played in the final Pro Bowl game in 2021, has some ideas on how linemen can be featured in the new Pro Bowl format, including dodgeball and a 3-point basketball shootout.

“You could also put the football in the big guy's hands and see if they can throw," Dawkins said. "You could have big guy receiver challenges to see how their catches really are.”


A Shnowman of the people

Dion Dawkins

Dawkins has witnessed the passion that Bills fans feel for the team, and he said he’s learned to appreciate the greater impact the team has on the region. 

“We've seen the wins, we've seen the losses, we've seen how it affected people, and we've seen how it affected the community. When the Bills win, all these organizations and all these businesses win, too,” he said. “And it’s uplifting - understanding how special Buffalo is and how much they care. It really is amazing.” 

During his days off, Dawkins can be found at charity and community outreach events throughout the region. His foundation, Dion’s Dreamers, provides mentorship to youth facing hardships or from underserved communities. The foundation also advocates for vulnerable populations by raising awareness of environmental issues.  

“People give their time to what matters to them, and I choose to give it to the community,” Dawkins said. 


Find out how you can support Dion's Dreamers at DionsDreamers.org.

Dion's Dreamers