(SAINT JOSEPH, Mo.) The high school football season came to an end with state championships Friday, meaning plenty of two or three-sport athletes are heading indoors to hit the hardwood for the winter months.
But one local gridiron standout prefers to stay out in the cold.
But, for bruising Bishop LeBlond back Austin Dawkins, the chilly ice of a hockey rink feels right at home.
"I just love the game. I love hitting and i just love playing with the guys," he said. "I've been playing with them since i started in first grade."
"I think it has to do with the physical aspect of it and the competitive game that it is," St. Joe Griffons Head Coach Rob Starr said. "It's just an active game and fast and i think Austin likes that."
Dawkins was introduced to hockey at a young age and stuck with the game as he's worked his way up the St. Joe Griffons program.
"My first grade teacher, Miss Lilly, her son played. She gave us all fliers at school and said to come out and try it," he said. "I did and I've liked it ever since. My parents have been really pleased with it, so I just kept playing."
But Starr, who's watched Dawkins for eight years, will tell you it doesn't take long to see the progression.
"Austin does things on skates that no other person can do," he said. "He brings effort to the game that's just amazing."
An effort made more impressive by the short turnaround for Dawkins after LeBlond's district championship run. He had just five days between the title game against Lathrop and his first game on the ice.
"My dad wouldn't even let me come out because we were doing good in football," he said. "I only had one practice this year before I came out here. It'll still take me a little bit to get to my full potential as it was last year."
"He only comes out in November to play hockey," Starr said. "He plays from November to February and then it's back to football. He doesn't even get on the ice to practice that much, but he just gets out there and he's a natural."
Dawkins may have worn his last pair of football cleats in high school, but still has the winter to trade those for skates to lace and a stick to wield.
"High school hockey is very hard-hitting and physical. He's absolutely that kind of player."