Brian Dawkins Sets Tempo, Heartbeat For Philly's Improbable Run

Patrick WallCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2009

Is there anyone in the NFL who deserves to win a Super Bowl more than Brian Dawkins?

Let me answer that for you: No.

Dawkins is an anomaly in Philadelphia. In a town known for being critical and at times unfair (just ask Donovan McNabb) to its athletes, the Eagles' Pro Bowl safety can do no wrong.

And rightfully so. In addition to being a seven-time Pro Bowler, Dawkins is the heart and soul of the defense, and creates the attitude of the team.

To Eagles fans, he is a God among men; the embodiment of their passion, spirit, and tough-nosed love for the game of football.

For all the respect he earns off the field, his teammates might just give him more.

"He is always prepared, he always wants the guys prepared just as much as he is," Brian Westbrook said last week. "[H]e has done a great job of leading this team."

Dawkins may be as well known for his preparation as he is for his leadership. Before a game, the normally quiet man will slowly turn into the crazed superhero known as "Weapon X", a nod to the Marvel hero Wolverine.

His pregame speeches are the stuff of legend in The City of Brotherly Love. He takes it upon himself to fire up his teammates, and maintains his intensity throughout the game.

"He's so strong mentally. He's as tough as you can imagine. I've got a lot of guys that love to play the game, but I would say that there's nobody that loved to play as much as him." Head coach Andy Reid said. "You can tell by the way he comes out of that tunnel that when it's time to go, it's time to go. You have to love that from a coaching standpoint and I know his fellow players respect him for that."

As the Eagles rolled over the Giants at the Meadowlands today, one can't help but wonder how far the Eagles would have made it without him this season.

Last year was not the best of seasons for Dawkins. After his twin daughters were born three months premature, Brian Dawkins the safety had to spend more time being Brian Dawkins the father, a decision that was a no-brainer for him.

A then 34-year old Dawkins spent the remainder of the season answering questions about his remaining time in Philly. Yes, he said, he would be back. No, he said, he did not think his playing years were over.

This season has marked a comeback of sorts for Dawkins. He made the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in his thirteen-year career. After McNabb's infamous benching, Dawkins spoke to his teammates. Whatever he said must have worked.

The Eagles have won six of their last seven games, thanks in large part to the Eagles defense. The unit finished third in the NFL in total defense; first in the NFC. Who do you thank for that?

You know who.

"Through all those down times, we didn't allow one another to doubt." Dawkins said following Sunday's win at the Meadowlands. "I don't know if it comes from one person or one individual, but it's a collective heartbeat right now."

The team may have a collective heartbeat, but the one setting the pace of that heartbeat is none other than "Weapon X", Brian Dawkins.