After 16 seasons in the National Football League, Brian Dawkins has decided to retire, announcing it via Twitter. Dawkins was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1996 through 2008, and a strong case could be made for him as the most beloved player in the franchise’s storied history.
Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles, leading the team to five conference championship games and a Super Bowl berth, along the way making seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. Dawkins went on to make two more Pro Bowls and another AP All-Pro team with the Denver Broncos, and would still have been a highly-sought after player in free agency had he decided to return for 2012.
Dawkins leaves behind a legacy that few safeties in the history of the game can match. Picking the best moments of his career is difficult to do, but here are 10 moments that I will always remember.
A lot of people probably don’t remember, but down the stretch in 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles had five players playing absolutely out of their minds: Jeff Garcia, Brian Westbrook, Shawn Andrews, Trent Cole and Brian Dawkins.
In the 21-19 win over the Washington Redskins in Week 14, the Redskins were threatening to take the lead with just five minutes to play. They faced a 3rd-and-goal on the Eagles’ 8-yard line, when Dawkins broke through the line of scrimmage and sacked Jason Campbell to hold the Redskins to a field goal. The Eagles held on to win by a 21-19 score, vaulting the Eagles into the playoffs as eventual NFC East champions.
As good of a player as he was, Brian Dawkins really didn’t score a lot of touchdowns during his NFL career. He reached the end zone just four times and never in his final nine seasons.
This was a memorable one though, as Dawkins stripped future all-world back LaDainian Tomlinson and ran it back 49 yards for a score in a game the Philadelphia Eagles would eventually win, 24-14.
As a Dallas Cowboys hater, 2006 was a fun year to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan. The Eagles routed the Cowboys, 38-24, the first time the two teams met, with Lito Sheppard taking an interception over 100 yards to the house to win the game.
Brian Dawkins also had a key interception, coming in coverage against Terrell Owens. The following season, Dawkins again intercepted Tony Romo on a pass intended for Owens, this one coming with just over three minutes left and the Eagles clinging to a 10-6 lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may have won the Super Bowl following the 2008 regular season, but they couldn’t keep up with the Philadelphia Eagles when the two teams met in Week 3.
The defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger an unbelievable eight times, with Brian Dawkins forcing the game-winner (video) in the final minutes and then pouncing on the ball to secure a 15-6 victory for the Eagles.
The first time the Philadelphia Eagles ever played the Houston Texans, Brian Dawkins made sure his presence was known. He became the first player in NFL history to intercept a pass, record a sack, force a fumble, and score a touchdown all in the same game.
The touchdown came courtesy of a 57-yard fake punt that put the game away, a contest the Eagles eventually won, 35-17.
Remember the absolutely amazing game in Week 17 of 2008, when the Philadelphia Eagles dismantled the Dallas Cowboys by a 44-6 score to clinch a playoff spot? In that game, Chris Clemons and Joselio Hanson each had long fumble returns—Clemons of 73 yards capped off by an incredible stiff-arm and Hanson a 96-yarder.
And who do you think forced the fumbles on each of those plays? Brian Dawkins, of course. He finished that game with five tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles.
This was the legendary 4th-and-26 game, in which Donovan McNabb hooked up with Freddie Mitchell on a memorable pass to propel the Philadelphia Eagles into overtime against the Green Bay Packers. In the fifth quarter, Brian Dawkins intercepted a deep pass from Brett Favre and returned it 35 yards to set up David Akers’ eventual game-winning field goal.
The pick came on what was almost a punt, as Favre just heaved the ball up to wide receiver Javon Walker. Dawkins settled under it and ran it back, helping to advance the Eagles to their third consecutive conference championship game.
I was fortunate enough to be at the game on December 27, 2009, when Brian Dawkins—in a Denver Broncos uniform—returned to Philadelphia to play a Week 15 game. It took everything I had in me not to tear up when Dawkins was introduced before the game, and the applause that met his appearance was absolutely deafening.
Dawkins did a dance coming out that was one of the better ones I’ve seen, and what made it best about the game was that the Eagles still won the game, although the 30-27 score was dangerously close at the end.
If you’ve never heard Brian Dawkins’ speech after the Philadelphia Eagles won the 2004 NFC Championship Game, you’re missing out. Dawkins was as pumped and animated as I have ever seen a player in my life, and I think he would have gone out and played four more quarters if he could have.
Remember his famous line? “I’ll tell you what, I wanted to set a tone! We wanted to set a tone… We came and we brought it! Every doggone play!"
If you ask 10 people to pick a play that best defines Brian Dawkins, I think most of them will pick this one. It was the Philadelphia Eagles’ fourth straight appearance in the NFC Championship Game, and Brian Dawkins made sure to set the tone early on this play.
Michael Vick hit tight end Alge Crumpler on a pass down the field and Dawkins absolutely leveled him in a hit that is still shown on Philly highlight reels today. The hit set the tone for the game, as Dawkins was a wild animal in that game—registering two tackles, an INT, a forced fumble, and two passes defensed in the contest.