BRIAN DAWKINS IS THE MOST BELOVED PLAYER IN FRANCHISE
HISTORY BECAUSE HE EMBODIED WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN EAGLE
by CHRIS McPHERSON
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE 19
In my 15 seasons of covering the
Philadelphia Eagles, I’ve been able to
witness some of the greatest players
ever to wear the uniform.
Some of them are in the Eagles Hall
of Fame, but only one is enshrined in
Canton, Ohio – Brian Dawkins.
Dawkins is my all-time favorite
Eagle. And it’s not even close. I’m sure
many of you reading this are nodding
Of course, there’s the production
on the field. How many players can
say that they had such an impact on
the sport that they changed the way
their position was utilized? Once the
last line of defense, safety became a
playmaker spot thanks to Dawkins.
Just in his time with the Eagles,
Dawkins had 34 interceptions, 32
forced fumbles, 21 sacks, 16 fumble
recoveries, and four total touchdowns.
How many players in NFL history
have 30 interceptions and 20 sacks?
Five. And Dawkins is one of them.
In the years to come, safeties like
Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed will get
into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
They have Dawkins to thank for paving
It’s not just about the numbers
when it comes to Dawkins. There are
In Week 3 of the 2008 season, the
Eagles took down Pittsburgh Steelers
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger eight
times. Dawkins sealed the 15-6 victory
when he flew like Superman to strip
the ball from Big Ben and recover
There’s the last home game of the
2008 campaign, the final day of the
regular season. The Eagles’ chances of
getting in the postseason were bleak
after an upset loss in Washington the
week before. A laundry list of results
had to go in the Eagles’ favor, just for
the game against the Dallas Cowboys
to mean anything. Of course, as we all
know, by the end of the 1 p.m. games
the winner of the Cowboys-Eagles
showdown earned the final invite
to the playoffs. Win or go home.
Against Dallas. At Lincoln Financial
Field, no less!
Dawkins battled a horrific ear
infection all week leading up to the
game, but he was never going to miss
Not only did he play, but Dawkins
also had one of the greatest games of
his career. He forced two fumbles that
were both returned for touchdowns in
the 44-6 rout.
Of course, there’s the hit. The hit.
When you think of Dawkins and a
bone-crushing tackle, there’s one play
that immediately comes to mind – the
2004 NFC Championship Game blow
delivered to Alge Crumpler. You might
forget that Crumpler managed to hold
on to the ball, but the message was
sent. After three straight defeats in
the NFC title matchup, the Eagles were
not going to be denied.
There have been plenty of players
who shined in big moments, but none
connected with the fans the way
Dawkins did. If you needed any sort
of reminder, just watch Dawkins’ Hall
of Fame speech from August. Eagles
fans turned the crowd at Tom Benson
Hall of Fame Stadium into a sea of
Eagles fans love defense. That was
cemented during the Buddy Ryan era
and the Gang Green defense of the
late 1980s and early 90s. Dawkins was
the continuation of that.
There’s also the unbridled energy
with which Dawkins played the
game. A quiet, Christian man who
led by example during the week
transformed into an alter ego – named
Weapon X – on gameday. He had deep
conversations with the football. He
galvanized his teammates with his
pregame speeches. His crawl out of
the tunnel before being shot out of
a cannon onto the field? You would
have believed he was a superhero out
of a comic book and not an NFL player.
Dawkins said it time after time
again. He played the game the way he
thought that the fans would if they
ever had the chance to be on the field.
A second-round pick of the team
in 1996, before the winning seasons
under head coach Andy Reid, No.
20 understood the unique dynamic
between the fans and this football
team. Dawkins embraced them by
living under the simple motto of
treating others the way he wanted to
be treated. He knew that the bluecollar
fans were spending their hardearned
money to see the Eagles play
and he wanted to give them a show.
Dawkins was perfect for
Philadelphia but his road there was
far from an ideal one. And while
Dawkins was the one on the pulpit at
the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the
summer accepting his place among
the giants of the game, it took a team
to get him there.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida,
Dawkins took to football in his youth
because he had a lot of energy – no
surprise there – and it kept him out
of trouble. He also had a love for
basketball, but realized during his
time as a student at Raines High
School that football would be his
avenue to college. Plus, he had an
older brother, Ralph, who was a star
running back at Louisville to look up
to as a role model.
Dawkins recalls when recruitment
letters started coming in from colleges.
Raines High School has produced
quality football talent over the years,
including Eagles Hall of Fame wide
receiver Harold Carmichael. But when
the first letter came for Dawkins from
the University of Notre Dame, the
school’s principal brought it into class
and handed it to Dawkins in person.
Dawkins dreamed of going to the
University of Florida. He had the Gator
Chomp down and was planning out
his defensive celebrations. However,
academics weren’t a priority at
the time. Dawkins met with Gators
defensive coordinator and defensive
backs coach Ron Zook and was told