Brian Dawkins was the greatest defensive player I ever saw play in the NFL. He really was the complete package at free safety for the Philadelphia Eagles during the late 90s and throughout the 2000s. He had the speed and athleticism you wanted in a safety. He was also one of the most feared hard-hitters in the league and one of the smartest safeties to ever play the game. He was always in position to make every play. He was a real weapon on the Eagles defense from 1995-2008.
Dawkins also was the spiritual and emotional leader of the Philadelphia Eagles. You won’t see that show up on any rating system on Madden 2013. It’s the type of asset that you sometimes can forget about. You don’t notice it until it’s gone. The defense was always on the same page and Brian Dawkins was a huge part of it.
On Sunday night, when the Eagles take on the New York Giants, Dawkins will be honored at halftime and will get his jersey number retired. He will be only the eighth Philadelphia Eagle to get his jersey retired in the franchise’s long and stories history.
It will be an emotional night for everyone involved. There probably won’t be a dry eye in the stadium, which shows you the kind of impact he has had on the city of Philadelphia. Sure, there have been more accomplished athletes. Several ex-Philly athletes have won MVPs and championships, but Dawkins meant so much more to this city than any of those players.
Moses Malone, Mike Schmidt and Bobby Clarke could have never had the impact that Dawkins had. He was a hero to thousands of kids in Philadelphia. He had a Ray Lewis like intensity that never wavered (although maybe Ray Lewis had a Brian Dawkins like intensity). He was the best at getting his crew fired up and getting the fans riled up at the same time.
The great thing about Dawkins in this defense was that you always knew he would make a play when the offense couldn’t. When Donovan McNabb couldn’t move the football and the defense was barely hanging on, you knew something big was about to happen. You just knew he was going to make a play. He just had a knack for coming up with clutch play after clutch play.
He finished his career with 37 interceptions, 26 sacks and 28 forced fumbles. He is still the only player to score a touchdown on an interception return, a fumble recovery and on a fake punt in the same game. If that doesn’t make him the most versatile defensive player of our generation, I don’t know what does.
It should be an emotional night when all of Philadelphia gets to see Brian Dawkins’ jersey retired. It’s a huge honor for not only one of the greatest Eagles of all-time, but one of the greatest in the history of the NFL as well.