Brian Dawkins will never be forgotten.
So, the announcement came today with a simple but heartfelt tweet:
The Lord has blessed me to play in the NFL for 16 years. I would like to thank the Eagles & the Broncos 4 believing In me. I would like 2 thank all my teammates & Coaches that I have been blessed 2 go to battle with. Along with u, the fans 4 helping make my career 1 that i have enjoyed tremendously. In other words. I am announcing my retirement from the NFL. #BBTB
That marks the official end of one of the greatest NFL careers of this generation. It's a sad day for Philadelphians, but not the saddest they've experienced when it comes to Brian Dawkins. That day was February 28, 2009. It was the day Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos.
Instead of bringing him back to make another run in 2009, the Eagles let him go to Denver and bring joy to the hearts of a new set of fans. Eagles fans were crushed. Dawkins was crushed. Some parties are still crushed.
So that was the saddest day, and while today is sad in some respects, it really isn't. Brian Dawkins accomplished everything there is to accomplish as a player, short of a Super Bowl win. He is one of the most revered and respected players of the last 25 years.
Brian Dawkins' retirement isn't cause for sadness. It's cause for celebration of a wonderful career and an even better human being.
This man was drafted into arguably the toughest of NFL cities to play in: Philadelphia. He found a way to not only survive there, to not only succeed there, but to thrive there. He will go down in Philadelphia lore the way few athletes do, at least not while they are still in uniform.
Brian Dawkins was a heat-seeking missile of a football player. He knew where the ball was at all times and he basically turned football games at Veterans Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field into large-scale games of "kill the man with the ball." And he was good at that game.
His hits could be heard and sometimes felt all the way up into the furthest reaches of the stadium seating. Fans' eyes would light up anytime they saw a pass floating toward the middle of the field, knowing what Brian Dawkins was about to do.
He hit people—hard. He forced fumbles. He intercepted passes. He scored touchdowns and sacked quarterbacks. He struck fear into the hearts of every opposing offensive player. He was Weapon-X.
Aside from the way he played the game, which was violent and reckless and ferocious, there were more reasons for the adoration he received in Philadelphia. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he gave so willingly both on the field and off.
During Dawkins' era, while Donovan McNabb mostly remained politically correct and passive-aggressive and Andy Reid mostly cleared his throat and said nothing, Dawkins always said what was in his heart. He has a huge heart and his passion and love of the game and the city won him a special place here.
One of the great things about Brian Dawkins is that as much as the fans fed off his energy, he fed off the fans just as much. Philadelphia fans were the fuel to his fire and he was never bashful about letting everyone know about how he felt.
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com tweeted this Dawkins quote from the book 50 Greatest Plays in Eagles History:
Have your tissues ready!
I don’t know if I could have come to a better place, a city where they appreciate the brand of football that I put out there. What I turn into on game day, I don’t know if there’s a truer place for me. Because the fans here, these are people who truly love that type of football. Every football fan loves a big hit. But it goes way beyond that here. Way beyond that. There’s a different mentality here. There’s a desire among those in the fan base to watch us just demolish somebody, and it’s passed down from generation to generation. Yes, they loved it when T.O. (Terrell Owens) was here and Donovan (McNabb) and T.O. were hooking up on big plays and big touchdowns every week. But when you get right down to it, the fans in this city would rather see a big hit than a long run or a big touchdown pass. When you can deliver a bone-jarring, snot-bubbling lick on somebody, it’s almost there’s something inside the fans that feasts on that. That’s what they want. That’s the kind of football they want.
That right there sums up the type of relationship Dawkins had with the fans of Philadelphia. Brian Dawkins is loved in Philadelphia as if he were an extended family member. As sad as it is to see something we love go away, how great is it that everyone involved in Philadelphia sports and media is discussing BDawk?
Check out any reporter's twitter account. It's Brian Dawkins everywhere. So everyone who loves the Eagles, anyone who watched Brian Dawkins play, anyone who has leaped out of there seat over a Dawkins hit or suplex, please sit back and remember all that was great about Brian Dawkins. He deserves it.
One other bit of news is that the Eagles will be honoring Dawkins at Lincoln Financial Field during the Sunday night game against the New York Giants. It's been a while since Dawkins played in Philadelphia, but the fans will help him remember really quickly what it was like to play here.
After unceremoniously letting him leave three years ago, the team will be holding a ceremony in his honor in front of the fans that he loved so much and that loved him back so much more. He deserves that too.
I didn't get too much into specific plays or moments, so in the comments please leave your favorite memories of Dawkins, whether as an Eagle or Bronco or Clemson Tiger. I look forward to reading every single one.