Underweight, out of breath, Dion Dawkins is working himself back from a battle with COVID-19 that featured a four-day hospital stay at Buffalo General Medical Center.
The 27-year-old left tackle couldn’t believe the virus hit him so hard. Moments in hospital where self-doubt took over and he didn’t know if he would make it. Fresh off an offseason workout program, he questioned how a healthy professional athlete could end up this way.
“It was one of the lowest points that I’ve ever been,” Dawkins said via video conference. “I never even thought I can get that low because I’m so animated and that hit hard. It hit the mental stuff, just every part of me.”
“I don’t want to scare anybody, but there were moments where I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to make this,’” Dawkins added.
Doctors and nurses were working to get Dawkins better. Among a checklist of symptoms, Dawkins says he hit every box including shortness of breath, dehydration, and wavering temperatures. His weight dropped from 334 to 318 pounds.
Dawkins took the initiative to get vaccinated and received one shot of the vaccine before his positive test. He’s glad that he had the vaccine with COVID and wishes he was fully inoculated. Dawkins ultimately felt it was the right decision because he wanted to protect his six-month-old son, Dilray.
His bout with COVID-19 inspired his family to receive their shots. Dawkins doesn’t know if it has changed the mind of any fans or teammates.
“Overall the first reaction besides being like ‘you’re skinny’ was guys wanting the knowledge of exactly what was going on and how it really made me feel,” Dawkins said. “I told them the honest truth of what I went through in my quarantine period and being away from my family and the process of everything. Letting them understand that’s a point that you really don’t want to get to, especially when football is going on.”
Now he’s back to being focused on football. Dawkins still struggles in practice with his conditioning and sometimes needs an extra moment. The more practices he participates in, the more his confidence grows in being prepared for the season. He’s only gone through three padded practices.
“He’s not close to where he needs to be to play and help us,” head coach Sean McDermott said on Sunday. “He’s got a long road here, He’s going to control what he can control and so are we. He’s going to continue to work hard to get himself back. This is Week 4 of training camp, so he’s missed a lot of time.”
Dawkins acknowledges how a positive test could affect not just him but the entire Bills team. If he tests positive, then contract tracing could push guys playing next to him like Jon Feliciano and Mitch Morse out as well.
But he can’t say everybody should be vaccinated since everybody’s life is different.
“Some people believe in God, and some people don’t,” Dawkins said. “To put everybody in one basket, I can’t find myself doing that.”
He encourages individuals to do their own research and figure out what’s best for them and their families.
The Bills have been at the forefront of the player vaccination discussion with wide receiver Cole Beasley voicing his displeasure on Twitter. In late July he and Jerry Hughes went back and forth on getting the vaccine. The latter being pro-vaccination.
Beasley questioned what happened to “God’s will” and when everybody started believing in science during his tirade. He stated he will receive the vaccine if Pfizer puts a percentage of its earnings in his wife’s name. Beasley later released a song titled Heavy 1s where he discusses his anti-vaccine stance.
“I don’t think (Beasley’s) downplaying it,” Dawkins said. “I just think he was downplaying the knowledge that was given to him. You know, everybody learns differently. Being an athlete we were spoiled, here drink this, take this. But I think the knowledge that he was given from the world, not the facility, just wasn’t enough for him to make a decision and as a person feels he can speak his mind. I don’t think he was downplaying it he just wants more knowledge to make the right decision.”
Dawkins wanted to give all the credit to the training staff, doctors, and strength staff that have been working with him every day. He says he was “completely lost” but they gave him the knowledge and stuff to get through it.
On Monday the Atlanta Falcons announced they were the first team to be 100% vaccinated against COVID-19.