Brand Ambassador & Former NFLer’ Shannon Snell Maintains Sonny’s BBQ Pitmaster Legacy

By Lynn Jones-Turpin | Since 1968, Sonny’s BBQ has been on the front line of pitmaster grilling.  For 55-years, the well known BBQ joint has been a staple in communities around the state of Florida.  In Jacksonville, Sonny’s is synonymous with BBQ and all the fixings!!  Then after all these years they score a touchdown with pitmaster griller Shannon Snell.  With football in his blood, Snell followed his father’s sports footsteps and played college football at the University of Florida (UF) and played professionally for the National Football League (NFL) teams: Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars. During our conversation, we reminisced on footballers we were personally acquainted with, while Snell lit up as he excitedly expressed that cooking was always his passion. A graduate of the U of Florida, anyone would definitely know that a college student has to eat and eat and cook he did!!  Always wanting to be a chef, him and his family would create new recipes and eventually Snell signed-up for a culinary course in college and the rest is history.  “I like eating and I like cooking,” said Snell.

During his tenure at UF, Snell met Gator Booster Club member Sonny’s’ founder Floyd Sonny Tillman.  Tillman and Snell struck up a friendship that evolved into Snell excepting an assistant manager position at the location in Gainesville, Florida  While he worked his way up, for 16 years he continued to hone his skills in Sonny’s pitmaster kitchens and evolved into the general manager position overseeing the daily activities of various locations throughout the state. Progressing really quickly, he unsurpassed at his craft, next thing you know Snell becomes Sonny’s brand ambassador and rips up news outlets with his recipes’ and knack for churning out good BBQ.  “Good BBQ has to be pleasing. Has to be tender, has to have the feeling of tasting good,” he said.  Snell also informed us that Sonny’s s motto of “low & slow,’ to bring those juices to fruition. Additionally Sonny’s up and coming pitmasters attend classroom courses to analyze their skill’s to know the affects of wood, smokers, sauces, flavors and dry rubs complete the pitmaster graduation process. Upon completing pitmaster courses, trained pitmaster receive their ‘Pitmaster Degree.’

On the recommendations of Snell, Free Press received a gift card to purchase food items to taste tests.  We tasted the briskets; have to say a little dry, Shannon, unless you dip meat into the sauce. The dry rub ribs were tasty and cooked to perfection. Now the green beans, cole slaw condiments were tasty and freshly seasoned. Those pork eggrolls were a winner, filled with mouth watering succulent pork, crispy outside and melt in your mouth taste. Shannon, we missed out on the wings with the white BBQ sauce, the ordered from location was literally out of wings!!!!!You know we adored the garlic bread, the Arnold Palmer was perfectly half/half and those doughnuts – wow!!!

We want to thank Sonny’s for the savory food dishes and the opportunity to let our readers, fans and subscribers know that sonny’s is still the spot for great BBQ, food, fun and laughter in a nostalgic atmosphere. But don’t forget you can call in for pick-up through your favorite food app, pick up at your nearest location or purchase a gift certificate/coupon for the family. Matters of fact prepare your Christmas dinner list and make Sonny’s your preferred dinner date with Santa! For more on Sonny’s and to place your order visit:

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