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Senior Bowl: Catching up with OL prospects Dion Dawkins, Antonio Garcia

Could one of these talented tackles end up with the Giants?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-South Practice
Antonio Garcia of Troy (53) battles defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon of Villanova (92) in a blocking drill during Senior Bowl practice.
Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants have always been a run-oriented team. Not so in 2016 when the club finished 29th in yards per game, 30th in average yards per play and dead last in rushing touchdowns with a paltry six. Now, one can say that the running backs aren’t getting to the hole quick enough or that quarterback Eli Manning is pass happy. Or, perhaps the offensive line is not quite as good as projected. And if the latter is correct, then new blood is needed.

Temple offensive tackle Dion Dawkins is an excellent run blocker and an amazing person. Troy’s Antonio Garcia is strictly a blue-collar old school guy and is ranked as the fourth-best offensive tackle. Both are trying to impress scouts this week at the Senior Bowl.

Dion Dawkins

(6-foot-5, 320) LT/LG Temple, Projected round: 2-3

Q: What do you offer an NFL team?

Dawkins: A lot of athleticism, very versatile player.

Q: How hard is it to grasp a new system?

Dawkins: The playbook is second nature to me. I tend to get things memorized pretty easily and just blessed to have that ability. You have to put in the study hours to know what you are supposed to do on every play.

Q: Are you strictly a left side guy?

Dawkins: In my freshman year I played right guard then right tackle but got hurt. When I came back my sophomore year they put me at left tackle and played there ever since. I did play some left guard for some games, but mainly at the tackle position. I can adapt to the right side, but of course the right side would take more work because I haven’t played it in a while, but eventually it will be done right.

Q: Is the Senior Bowl at stepping stone for you?

Dawkins: I am getting my feet extremely wet. I am playing left guard after having playing left tackle for three years straight and been extremely successful playing there. So far these NFL teams want to see me at guard so I am taking on that task. But the left side is familiar to me so that is good.

Q: Is that something you are trying to demonstrate to others you can play other positions?

Dawkins: I am trying to prove that I can accomplish anything and do what is asked of me without any conflict. I can do this, and I can do that. I just want to prove to these NFL teams that if they choose me in the draft they will have one heck of a guy.

Q: What are you expecting from yourself next season in the NFL?

Dawkins: To be the number one offensive rookie lineman in the league. And truly, I think that with work, having the right coaches around me and help with the guys already there to improve as much as I want to improve, it will be an amazing legacy for me to leave behind.

Q: Do you have any favorite players already in the league?

Dawkins: The Pouncey twins. Both are great players and great people as well. I also like

skinny guys.

Q: Like (offensive tackle) Nate Solder of the Patriots? He’s a skinny guy.

Dawkins: No, more like Tyrann Mathieu. Guys who can flat out fly around the field and hit. He is truly an amazing player. I also liked Michael Vick in his day.

Q: Do you have any peeves with players?

Dawkins: I don’t like players who don’t do what it takes to win. This is what you do – you play football, so why wouldn’t you give it everything each time you play? I want to be one of those that when kids are growing up they will know that I am “the guy.” I know I am going to have to keep working and in the end whatever position I am at will be successful. I won’t have it any other way.

Q: So you are planning to play for a long time?

Dawkins: I would love a 15-year career and not have to have anything that would interrupt that goal. I just want to play ball and make enough money to live, and at the same time help out kids.

Q: Run blocking, pass blocking – which would you say is your strength?

Dawkins: If I had to pick only one? Run. I am very aggressive and I am very strong.

Q: When your playing career is over, what do you see yourself doing?

Dawkins: Helping out kids - elementary or high school kids. When I was growing up I wasn’t always on the right path, and someone needs to step in like someone stepped in for me. I want to be one of those guys for somebody else. And working to solve problems with animals. I love working in shelters that house animals. They need help and we are humans. We should help.

Antonio Garcia

(6-7, 300) OT Troy, Projected round: 2-3

Q: You played at a smaller D-1 school. Is that a disadvantage for you?

Garcia: Osi Umenyiora of the Giants played for Troy, so did DeMarcus Ware and Leodis McKelvin. So, if you are a good player they will find you. Players go to different schools for different reasons.

Q: What should an NFL team expect from you after the draft?

Garcia: I am physical, loves the game and someone who takes pride in the fundamentals of playing the position. I want to be a starter on someone’s team.

Q: Were you surprised that the Senior Bowl granted you an invitation?

Garcia: I want the opportunity to show that I can play with any talent.

Q: There are a ton of scouts and coaches at the Senior Bowl. How do you handle that?

Garcia: I just focus on what my job is and football. I don’t have time to think about anything else.

Q: Any players you look up to?

Garcia: Well, my favorite player of all time is Joe Thomas of the Browns. He has played for like 10 years and has never been hurt. He has never missed a snap and is always in the Pro Bowl. He plays hurt, beat up. That is someone I really respect and can try to become.

Barry Shuck is at the Senior Bowl this week gathering interviews and providing live coverage for Giants fans.

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