Dawkins, facing assault trial, ready to contribute for Temple

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Temple offensive linemen Kyle Friend, Shahbaz Ahmed, Brendan McGowan and Dion Dawkins.

Dion Dawkins never lost faith, even though it looked for a while as if he would not be able to play football this season for Temple.

Dawkins and his teammate, defensive lineman Haason Reddick, still face trial on felony aggravated assault and conspiracy charges and related misdemeanor charges in connection with an off-campus fight at a North Philadelphia nightclub in January.

A ruling in April dismissed all charges against Reddick and most of the charges against Dawkins, but Common Pleas Judge Michael Erdos reversed that decision in June.

The trial is expected to take place sometime in 2016.

Both players were suspended from the football team in March, but shortly after Erdos' decision, the Temple Student Conduct Board voted that Dawkins and Reddick, both juniors, could return to the team.

From a football standpoint, there are few players more important to the success of Temple than the 6-foot-5, 318-pound Dawkins.

As a true freshman in 2013, he appeared in five games, making two starts before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Last season, he started 11 of 12 games at left tackle, missing one game with an ankle injury.

When asked whether he was concerned that he wouldn't be able to play this season, Dawkins replied: "No, actually not."

He then explained why.

"I kept praying about it, and everything happens for a reason, and I am happy to get to play this season as I did last season," he said. "I am blessed to have another opportunity to move forward in my life."

Neither Dawkins nor Temple officials would discuss his legal situation.

Police said the victim, Benjamin Wood, 21, was at a party at Club 1800 in the Ludlow section at about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 18 when he saw his friend "getting beat up" by people he described as members of the Temple football team. Wood told police that he was kicked in the eye while trying to pull his friend away and that he was held back by Dawkins and others. Later, he said, several other people began hitting him, and he got into a fight with Dawkins. Everyone involved in the fight - all Temple students - knew one another, police said.

Wood suffered a fractured orbital bone and was treated at Wills Eye Hospital and Jefferson Hospital.

Without Dawkins, Temple's line would be lacking needed experience. Two of the staples are center Kyle Friend, who has made 33 consecutive starts, and Dawkins.

"I think Dion is a kid who has a chance to be an NFL player one day," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "He is extremely talented and one of the hardest-working guys on our team."

Friend expanded on the skill set that Dawkins brings to the offensive line.

"He is an athletic guy with good feet, got heavy hands, and is a great pass protector, and we are excited to know we have another solid piece in that starting five," said Friend, who is on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given to the top center in the country.

Dawkins said he took a step back after being unable to participate in spring practice or work out with the team but added that he has returned to form.

As for Reddick, he is a defensive lineman from Haddon Heights High School who started two games a year ago.

"Haason has played a lot of football for us and still is somebody trying to find his niche for where exactly he fits in, but he is a guy who will definitely help us," Rhule said.

Dawkins, however, can be a difference-maker, certainly for Temple and possibly at the next level. He said he thinks about playing in the NFL but doesn't dwell on it.

"I try my hardest not to think too much about it," he said. "I take things day by day because you never know what will happen."

Never was that more true than during this past offseason.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard