Everett Dawkins arrived at Florida State as an agile, 240-pound defensive end before embarking on the kind of recommended diet regimen most people can only dream about, including late-night fast-food runs.
The former Byrnes standout’s mission was simple — eat and then eat some more.
FSU’s coaching staff realized Dawkins possessed the type of 6-foot-3 frame that could withstand more weight, and now five years later, the 303-pound defensive tackle is still somewhat surprised about his body’s transformation.
“They told me when I got here they were going to put weight on me, but I never believed I could get this big until I actually saw it happen,” Dawkins said. “It was fun. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. If I woke up at 3 in the morning and was hungry, I might order some Chinese food or something. I was eating four and five meals a day. Whatever they put in front of me, I was eating. I’m not too picky as long as it’s good.”
The 22-year-old recalled the satisfaction of stepping on the scale and seeing 300 pounds for the first time.
“It was unbelievable and a great feeling but, honestly, it was a slow process. Every year I’ve gained weight except for this past year, where I kind of stayed steady. It’s definitely a lot different feeling, especially playing because now I have to go against 320-pound offensive linemen.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wasn’t sure how large Dawkins could get after he arrived in Tallahassee, but is impressed by the increase.
“We thought he had the capability because of the way his legs, shoulders and hands were,” Fisher said. “He was on a big-body frame and we didn’t know how big he could get, but by being a fifth-year senior and taking that time, it’s really evolved. He’s got a big, powerful body that he’s developed and changed and stays at 303 pounds now.”
It’s not just at the dinner table where Dawkins has produced successful results. He has earned a degree in social science and is the anchor in the middle of a defense that ranks tops nationally in total defense, rushing and passing defense and scoring defense. His 30 career starts are tied for most among FSU defenders. After starting seven games in each of his redshirt freshman and sophomore years (the latter hampered by mid-season thumb surgery, although he never missed a game) he started all 13 last season in earning All-ACC honorable mention honors.
Florida State has allowed a field goal to Murray State in its three wins, with shutout victories against Wake Forest and Savannah State.
“We’ve come out playing great and are meeting the expectations so far that many people had for us,” Dawkins said. “Last year we were pretty good, but this season we wanted to make sure and put everything together and not make the same mistakes we did in the past. We pride ourselves on the type of numbers we’re putting up and we play every game like it’s our last.”
Florida State has done it without star lineman Brandon Jenkins, the team’s sack leader the past two years who suffered a season-ending foot injury in the season opener. The loss was big for the team, but also emotional for good friend and running mate Dawkins.
“He’s like a brother to me and it was really hard to see somebody with his potential have to step out and not play the rest of the season. One of the good things about Florida State and our coaches is they’ve brought in a lot of depth here so, as great as Brandon is, we never took a step backwards.”
No. 4 Florida State can take a huge leap forward with a victory Saturday against No. 10 Clemson, not only gaining the inside track toward the ACC Atlantic Division crown but also firmly establishing itself as a contender for the national championship. This is annually one of the more exciting weeks for Dawkins, who enjoys competing against one of his home-state colleges.
“It’s a great feeling because I know a lot of people from home will be watching, even some who maybe haven’t had the chance to see me play since high school,” Dawkins said. “I’ve called a lot of people back home and others have called me. I love every time we play Clemson or South Carolina.”
Dawkins has high hopes that there will be many more chances for his fans to watch him on TV in the future, this time on Sundays in the NFL. With his degree already in hand, he’s been able to concentrate more on football this semester with an eye on the next level.
“That’s something you have in the back of your mind and use it as motivation to go out and handle my business on the field so I’ll have the chance to pursue my dream and make it come true,” Dawkins said. “I’m just putting it all on the line in my final season and it’s a great feeling to see your name mentioned with anything regarding the NFL.
“I’ll look at the (draft) rankings from time to time to see where I’m at and if I’ve got six people listed in front of me, I want to climb past those six by the end of the year to improve my stock. You also see what they have listed as your negatives so you can work on those.”
So far his positives have far outweighed the negatives both on and off the field for the Seminoles, leaving Fisher with high praise for his transformed rock in the middle.
“I say this all the time, defensive tackles are the most unselfish people in the world and Everett is an ultimate team guy,” Fisher said. “He’s a very, very good football player and I think he’ll play at the next level. He’s got a great mentality and mind and he’s a great competitor. I’m just blessed that he is with us and has had a phenomenal career here at Florida State.”