Long time Eagle Safety Brian Dawkins called it quits Monday retiring from the NFL after 16 amazing seasons. Dawkins played his first 13 seasons with the Eagles and finished up his final 3 seasons in Denver playing for the Broncos. Dawkins at age 38 was suffering from serious neck problems towards the end of last season and was forced to miss the stretch run. Dawkins though felt his neck was healed and he could play another season and that was one of the reasons he decided to walk away from the game. Dawkins said “It’s probably going to sound crazy, but you know the fact I could play another year gave me a lot of peace to say that this is it”. Dawkins initially called Bronco coach John Fox Monday morning to let him know of his decision before officially making an announcement via Twitter where he quickly began trending as fans around the globe began realizing the legend will step down.
Dawkins is without a doubt one of the greatest NFL safeties to ever play the game. In my opinion he’s at the top of the list of defensive players that have played for the Eagles along with the late Reggie White. Without a doubt even though Dawkins finished his career in Denver he’ll go into the Hall of Fame one day as an Eagle. He’ll be eligible for induction in 2017. Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense for over a decade. The passion, intensity, and leadership he brought to the defense every Sunday was something unmatched by anyone else in Eagles history. For those of us who watch every Sunday it’s pretty clear since the departure of Dawkins the Eagles defense hasn’t been the same and has been missing the leadership so desperately needed to be successful.
Dawkins was drafted by the Eagles in 1996 in the second round out of Clemson. Throughout his illustrious career he was named to 9 Pro Bowls. He finished his Eagle career after the 2008 season as the franchise’s leader in games played (183) and interceptions (34) all while leading a defense that made the Eagles a force in the NFC East just about every season. He also had 42 forced fumbles which are the most ever by a defensive back in the NFL.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the following about Dawkins, “Brian Dawkins is one of my all-time favorite players and one of the best to ever put on an Eagles uniform, On the field in many ways, Brian re-invented the safety position. He had the speed and athleticism to line up against the game’s best receivers, and was equally effective in the run game. His love for the game was infectious and he poured his entire heart and soul into everything he was doing from the moment he entered the stadium until he left”.
The Eagles will honor and most likely retire Dawkins number 20 on September 30th when the Eagles host the Giants. It’s a ceremony that is much deserved for a man that played his heart out every Sunday for football fans around the Delaware Valley. The Eagles also have arranged for a retirement press conference later in the week which only is more evidence they are ready to acknowledge the fact that Dawkins is indeed an important part of Eagle history. When Dawkins signed with Denver in 2009 the pain felt by Eagle fans was evident around Philadelphia. But the efforts by the Eagles to honor Dawkins and host his retirement news conference will help put the hard feelings Eagle fans had in the past aside.
The sad part of the whole thing is Dawkins never won that elusive Superbowl championship. He was close in 2004 when the Eagles lost to the Patriots but that’s as close as he’d get. Dawkins without a doubt deserved a Superbowl more than any other Eagle who played during that era of football. I found myself cheering for the Broncos during last season’s playoffs not because of Tim Tebow like so many but because Brian Dawkins deserved a Superbowl ring more than any other player in the NFL. The guy brought his passion and intensity every week and let fans in on the emotions he felt by the game he played.
I was lucky enough to see him play many times and I was in attendance when he made his only return to Lincoln Financial field as a Denver Bronco in week 16 of the 2009 NFL season. The ovation in that stadium that day was something unheard of for an opposing player yet it was well deserved. I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a player like Dawkins again in Philadelphia but the fact is we should all feel honored we had the chance to see him put his heart out on the field every week as an Eagle. Thank you BDawk for a giving us fans the chance to be a part of your fantastic career.