There was no better teammate than Brian Dawkins…
One of the most beloved athletes to play professionally in Philadelphia, Brian Dawkins retires from the NFL after 16 seasons with the Eagles and Broncos. The Jacksonville, Florida native out of Clemson University tweeted the news. The heat seeking safety will be remembered as one of the most motivated teammates and also one of the most ferocious hitters ever to play the sport. The team was always first with Dawkins. The 9 time Pro Bowl defensive back cried after losses. I’ve seen him cry on the podium. Football meant that much to him but he is more than a football player to those he impacted…
The Eagles organization plans on bringing Dawkins in Saturday to officially retire as an Eagle. He was versatile…amassing 37 picks and 26 sacks. He was one of two safeties to approach those numbers (Ronde Barber). He tracked you down and laid out a super speed knock on anyone making a reception, getting across the line on a carry or dropping back to make a pass and that’s not glorifying hits. His intentions were to put you down in every football way. Covering the Eagles, I had a chance to talk to him on many occasions, and the first time I walked into the locker room, I had to shake his hand. Rarely if ever starstruck, I sure was that day. Usually after Eagles games, Andy Reid would talk first, then Donovan McNabb would speak, and in some order Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins. When Dawkins was at the podium, I’ll always remember his son sitting on the side…proud of his Pop. Brian would glance over to his son often during the presser and it’s something that was honest and genuine. Far too often in the media, our perception of an athlete is altered when we initially come in contact with them. Not the case of Dawkins. As an Eagles fan most of my life, I wept when he was released and caught on with the Denver Broncos (especially after seeing this video) because of what he selflessly gave the city those 13 years. He sacrificed his body every single moment he played in the league. Yes, everyone else did the same, but it was different with Brian and his teammates knew he had their back no matter what side of the ball they were on. The Eagles haven’t recovered at his position in the three years since and in my opinion, he should be a virtual lock to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. He tells it like it is when I ask him about leading and talking in the locker room after a big game here in ’08 vs. the Cardinals (the Eagles later lost to those same Cardinals in a great game in the NFC Championship later that year):
“Most of the talking is done by example. Sometimes you have to play through games you normally couldn’t play through. You have to force yourself to play through some pain and injuries sometimes. Your overall attitude in practicing-even when you’re losing. Every once in a while I find myself having conversations with guys to make sure we are all on the same page about where we need to go from here. Where we need to go from here is what we did tonight. Every phase (of the team) played-we had a couple of bloopers every once and a while-for the most part came to play and had significant contributions to this win.”
“You want to play against the best and they were putting up some big numbers as a corps. We stand up to that. We knew that having (Asante Samuel) go down that maybe (people thought) the unit wouldn’t be able to stand up. We knew we had to be physical with them. We could not allow them to run around the football field and have 7 on 7 catches all day. It was a huge challenge to our defense-not just our secondary.”
There was also a game the Eagles had to win to get into the playoffs I covered vs. the Dallas Cowboys for a now defunct wire service…a 44-6 Eagles victory…where as soon as Brian Dawkins came out of the tunnel, the crowd exploded. We felt it in the press box. I’ll won’t soon forget that game. After I wrote:
Dawkins seemed overcome by emotion in the latter stages of the game and one could sense a world of pressure was lifted off both the Philadelphia players and its coaching staff. I asked how this tumultuous season has brought the team closer: “What pressure does is build who you really are. It reveals you. They say pressure busts pipes. It can, but it really reveals who you are. In those pressure situations, we came together. We talked amongst one another and we believed in one another. We didn’t allow those trouble situations to get us down and keep us down. We grinded together—people wanted us to point the finger at the offense and we didn’t do that. We helped our brothers up, that brought us closer together and we fought.” The Eagles had to win that day and Dawkins would not let them lose.
God bless you Brian Dawkins, you are a great dude and I’m honored to have reported on the Eagles during your career. Thank you sir. I hope I’ll get a chance to cover such a committed player to his team (Elton Brand comes to mind, but unfortunately he didn’t play the majority of his career here). The NFL lost a great one on the field today. He represented his family, sports in general, the league and its fans very well.
|Dawkins’ career stats…|
A tribute vid from ’06. We all remember the end zone lick he put on Mike Vick in the blistering cold vet during the ’05 NFC Championship Game. You’ll see many of these uploaded to youtube in the next few days I’m sure. Dawkins had that type of impact.
Weapon X…the Wolverine, your game will be missed…