Allen Iverson stood tall, emulating a larger than life figure. The barely six-foot guard entered the basketball Hall of Fame two years ago, becoming the first childhood icon of mine to achieve the ultimate honor. Saturday night a second childhood icon will enter the Hall of Fame. He played with intensity, passion and embodied the spirit of Philadelphia more than any athlete, even Iverson.
Brian Dawkins will deliver a speech Saturday night in Canton, Ohio that’ll perfectly capture his time as an Eagle, and exemplify who he is as a man. It’ll so accurately describe his football play and how he played every single game. Nobody attacked with more zest. Nobody carried himself with more swagger. Nobody played with more energy. Dawkins was Philadelphia football. The early 2000s were tremendous for a Philadelphia football fan as Dawkins turned in All-Pro season after All-Pro season. It’s when I first became one. Having a guy like Dawkins being in charge made the experience of becoming a football fan that much more enjoyable.
In the midst of training camp, the Philadelphia outlets have dedicated coverage to Dawkins. CSN Philly, with Derrick Gunn, ran an interview with the former Clemson safety earlier this week, where Dawkins described the realness of the depression and suicidal thoughts that clouded his brain. He felt alone. He spoke in such rawness about how he’d sit alone in a dark room, purposely avoiding his wife and child. It was his wife, Connie, who saved his life, Dawkins recalled. Dawkins, dealing with the pressures of being a football player and a new father, turned to alcohol. He abused it to deal with the pressures, so much so that he nearly ended his own life. Connie convinced him to get professional help, and Dawkins says he hasn’t had a sip of beer since his rookie season over 20 years ago.
He’d gone onto have a career unlike any safety in professional football. No safety forced more fumbles. No safety secured at least 30 career interceptions and 30 forced fumbles in a career. He played with the aggression and demeanor that proved to be the heartbeat of the late great Jim Johnson’s defense, a defense good enough to reach four straight conference championship games.
A hit that’s resurfaced all week, and will continue to resurface while discussing Weapon X, happened in January of 2005. Dawkins delivered the blow to Alge Crumpler, setting the tone on what ended up being a joyous day as the Eagles finally advanced to a Super Bowl. In an interview with Terry Bradshaw following the game, Dawkins screamed for the Delaware Valley to hear: “First of all, HALLELUJAH!” He then gave a speech as only Dawkins could give.
Never winning a ring as a player it felt only right for Dawkins to win one as a football operations executive this past year. In May Dawkins announced he was leaving the Eagles to pursue his next calling to, “inspire hope and increase the minds, bodies and souls of so many to come” as he wrote in a press release. It’s unclear what Dawkins will do, but it’ll require his leadership, his passion and his faith, three traits that make him such a dynamic personality. Dawkins changed, and became a truly wonderful person off the field.
Poll anybody about their favorite Eagle during those glory days, and it’s Dawkins more times than not. The Florida native embraced the city in more ways than one. Saturday night, he’ll inspire and motivate again. Just like he did every weekend.
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