The ESPYs are known as the Oscars of the sports world — so it’s only fitting that ESPN’s signature awards show is now held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, which is also home to the Academy Awards.
Along with heartfelt acceptance speeches, emotional presentations, cheesy jokes, cool musical performances and an overly-long runtime, another thing that the ESPYs has in common with the Oscars is a stylish red carpet. Gone are the days when players would attend in black suits or the first shirt they found in their closet. Today’s generation of NFL stars take fashion as seriously as their playbooks, and are just as competitive about their appearance on the red carpet as they are about their performance on the field.
SB Nation was at the ESPYs chatting with some of football’s hottest fashionistas to learn about their unique looks and designer threads ... or lack of them, in one Buffalo Bills player’s case.
Dion Dawkins - Buffalo Bills
The Kansas City Chiefs might have been the big awards winners at the 2023 ESPYs, but it was Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins who won the red carpet. With temperatures in Hollywood hitting 100 degrees before the show, Dawkins had the sense to go shirtless to beat the heat — and flaunt his amazing bellyful of tattoos. The Schnowman told SBN that his bare-chested look was a very last-minute decision, however. “I was leaving the hotel room and I had my shirt on then I looked at it and I said, ‘Wow, something ain’t right. I don’t really look like Schnow. So I was like, ‘hey, let me take the shirt off and see what it looks like.’ When I took the shirt off, it was just screaming Dion Dawkins.” Fortunately, he didn’t ditch his sea green suit by Gentleman’s Playbook. “That is the brand, but the influence is all me.”
As for his ink work, Dawkins talked us through his very prominent tattoos. “The tattoos are all me. Inside is Schnow. Everything is Schnowflakes, right? I go by The Schnowman, so everything is cold. I got an igloo inside of an astronaut. You know, space is freezing. I got a bird crushing a frozen heart. I got Schnow actual in the middle. I got me as my Schnowman I got, I don’t even know what’s over here [pointing to his bottom left stomach], it could be the Statue of Liberty.”
Marcus Williams - Baltimore Ravens
Marcus Williams [above right with Johnathan Williams] wore a black Martin Margiela suit with a subtle silver pattern that flattered it’s flawlessly frayed edges. To top it off, “I got some McQueen accents with Louis Vuitton shoes and a special chain,” he told SBN.
When asked why NFL players seem to have really upped the style stakes in recent years, Williams said: “A lot of guys have fashion. It’s just now we’re able to express it a little more here and there ... so now we’re coming out trying to show off our personalities, and our outfits show off who we are, because we’re not just football players. We have a lot more stuff that we can do outside of football and sports that we just want to show off, we just want to be ourselves and tell people who really are.”
Jerry Jacobs - Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs said he was trying to channel his team’s colors, but his royal blue suit with yellow details looked more L.A. Rams to us. Either way, he looked slick for his awards show debut. “This is my first ESPYs, so I just hit up my stylist Dion Atelier in Miami and told him I wanted to look fly. I told him I wanted my team colors, so he gave me a fitted suit, customized head-to-toe and made it blue.” If Jacobs ever follows former Lions QB Matthew Stafford to the Rams, at least he’ll have an appropriate suit to wear and still match his team’s colors.
Eric Kendricks - Los Angeles Chargers
New Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks oozed L.A. cool with this laidback summer look. In fact, his style was so effortlessly casual that it even came wrinkled. “It’s an Acne shirt. I wanted to be comfortable but I knew it was going to be hot out,” Kendricks explained. “It has a little wrinkled look to it already.” When asked why NFL players are getting so stylish, he said: “The guys can kind of embrace their personality ... It’s about confidence, really.”
Having been released by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this year and signed by the Chargers, Kendricks is already embracing Southern California living, saying the thing he’s most excited about coming to L.A. for is the “Mexican food.”
Ryan Clark - ESPN analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers safety
Having evolved from wearing a Steelers uniform in his playing days to a power suit on ESPN shows like Get Up and NFL Live, Ryan Clark knows how to dress sharp.
The player-turned-analyst embraced the pastel trend of the day, saying his pale pink suit was designed by “Andre’ Julius, who has a small company in Williamsburg, Virginia. He reached out to me to be a brand ambassador. I pretty much just wear anything he sends. I think that’s why he likes me!”
Sean Murphy-Bunting - Tennessee Titans
Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting didn’t take any credit for his block-colored suit, which reminded us of the Maryland state flag. “My friend, Richfresh, he designed it and created it. I think the inspiration honestly just drawn from him just being creative. Rich had to figure something out as far as this colorway and this is what he came up with ... I just kind of rolled with it because I trust him a lot and believe in everything he stands for,” he told SBN.
The former Buccaneer is really enjoying NFL players being able to express their style, saying he thinks the league was influenced a lot by basketball. “The tunnel pictures that they had really influenced it. I think that football players are just now trying to get into that different realm of fashion, and having the opportunity to inspire and promote that as far as just expressing your feelings and your beliefs. When I got to the league — my rookie year was in 2019 — I wasn’t really thinking about stuff like that. But fashion is just a way to express yourself and it’s a way to get into somebody else’s world and really, I guess, just learn about it. And learning about it for me, over the past couple of years has been a blessing,” he added.
Terron Armstead - Miami Dolphins
He’s a force on the field, but Dolphins tackle Terron Armstead went for an understated look on the red carpet — aside from his name in gold and diamonds around his neck, of course. “I didn’t want to go too much flair, but I wanted to add a little pop, so I got an all-gray suit with the pink pinstripes and some white Christian Louboutins,” he explained. As for the expensive bling: “I had to put the jewelry on. It’s only right ... that’s a part of it, this is custom-made.”