The Brian Dawkins Story "A Class Act"

David T.Correspondent IJuly 4, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Brian Dawkins #20 of the Denver Broncos warms up before their game against the Oakland Raiders at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 27, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Once upon a time there was a young couple in the city of Jacksonville, FL who gave birth to a son, on October 13, 1973. At first glance, he looked no different then any other baby. Nobody was to know that this little baby was destined for greatness. Born, was Brian Patrick Dawkins.

From the day that Brian Dawkins started playing Pop Warner football in Jacksonville, FL (in which he also donated over $50,000 to Forest View Pop Warner for footballs and equipment) his family knew he was going to be something special.

Brian went to William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville, FL. He began to make his mark by becoming an All State selection and helping to lead his team to 30 consecutive victories. While in High School he met a young girl named Connie. Like a fairy book story, he married her. He went to college and had 2 children, Brian Jr. and Brionni.

Brian went to College at Clemson University and played the Strong Safety position as a 3 year starter. He had 247 tackles and 11 interceptions. He was a 2nd team All American selection when his team high 6 interceptions tied him for the conference lead. He was named the first-team strong safety on Clemson's all-centennial team in 1995 and was selected to their Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 1996, Brian was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2nd round. As a rookie in 1996 he started 13 of the 14 games he played in, recording 75 tackles, a sack and three interceptions. During his career Dawkins has been elected to 7 Pro Bowls. 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

In 2002 in a game versus the Houston Texans he became the first player in NFL history to record a sack, an interception, forced fumble, and touchdown reception in a single game.

If any are curious as to why Brian missed the Pro Bowl in 2007, maybe this will help to explain this mans remarkable journey and struggle.

When Brian Jr. was 11 and his sister Brionni was 8, they were greeted with twin sisters, Chionni and Cionni on April 26, 2007. This was a difficult and risky pregnancy for Brian's wife, Connie. The twins were born 2 months premature as well as one was thought to run the risk of having Downs syndrome when she was still in the womb. Doctors wanted to perform a procedure to verify it but there was a risk of losing one of the babies. Brian and Connie said no. The babies turned out not to have Downs, thank God for that.

However, the pregnancy was not without trouble. Connie was suffering from bleeding, much of the time. Brian had to stay at home to care for and watch after his brave and loving wife. Not an easy thing to do if you are a football player in the NFL. She almost delivered 3 months early but the doctors stopped the early pregnancy.

During the pregnancy, Brian didn't get to work out as he normally did during the off season and this inactivity began to show by way of injuries on the field. Many thought he was "over the hill" because of the injuries but nobody bothered to take into consideration the fact of what he and his family went through. He wasn't in peak shape.

Brian would take care of his wife. Brian couldn't spend the time, doing his 12 hour a week workout to get ready for the upcoming season. No, he was a father and husband 1st and a football player 2nd.

Said Brian, “I'd drop the kids off at school, go see her, then take an hour to try to work out, then come right back to the hospital to be with her, then go pick the kids up from school, then get dinner ready.” He went on to say, “I got a chance to walk in her shoes. I told her after all this was done how much I really appreciate her.”

When the babies were born they weighed only 3 pounds. Cionni, the younger twin, was suffering from relative bradycardia; for her age, her heart rate was too slow. Intermittent episodes of bradycardia are common among premature babies. Periods of apnea, the suspension of normal breathing, are often connected to it. It is said that each condition contributes to the other. If a premature baby is not taking in enough oxygen, the heart will slow down. As the heartbeat slows, the baby has fewer opportunities to take a breath.

Chionni and Cionni spent 17 days in the hospital. They came home on Sunday, May 13, Mothers Day. Brian and Connie bought an electronic monitor to track Cionni's breathing, and in those frightful moments when Cionni seemed to forget to breathe, Brian would have to stimulate her somehow; shake her gently, wiggle her foot until she'd let out a tiny noise, half-grunt, half-gasp.

"It was very terrifying." said Brian.

Brian had a routine. He would stay up all night to feed, change, and care for the twins. Then he would go to bed at 6 a.m.; wake up at noon; work out at 1:30; pick up Brian Jr. and Brionni from school; help Connie with dinner; take a nap until 10 p.m., then he would start all over. He said he was a "walking zombie."

Brian said, “But you've got to have a positive outlook on things. My wife is going through what she's going through. The kids are still going to school. Brian still needs to go to basketball practice. Brionni still needs help with homework. So I still have to be able to do all those things — and not with an angry attitude. It was taxing, very taxing.”

Give credit where credit is due. He was a fantastic father and husband. The children, we are happy to say, are now healthy and doing great.

When Brian hit the field in 2007, his injuries mounted and his stats fell. Many didn't know what he went through, even those who claimed to be fans. I think he deserved a pass, don't you?

In 2008, Brian turned it around and became the player on the field that everyone remembers. It was a good enough season to deserve another trip to the Pro Bowl.  

During the 2008 season he became the tenth member of the 20/20 Club and broke the Eagles record for games played surpassing Harold Carmichael who had 180. He finished his career with the Eagles starting 182 of 183 games, recording 898 tackles, 34 interceptions, and 21 sacks.

Now you have some insight as to what this great man, this great human being, went through. You also now know how strong and equally great, his wife Connie is.

After the 2008 season, Brian became a free agent. It was time to move on from the Philadelphia Eagles. Denver Broncos, here I come.

Denver Broncos signed Brian to a contract on February 28th, 2009. It is for 5 years and 17 million. 7.2 million guaranteed. There is a termination clause after 2 years that says that if he is released after two seasons, he will receive an additional $1.8 million.

Brian will bring to the Broncos something that has been sorely missed since the days of Al Wilson. Leadership. If you look in his locker, you will see a Wolverine figurine that the fans of Philly gave him. It represents furiosity. The killer instinct on the field should you cross his path. Another "silent assasin" in the safety position.

He brings heart and future glory to the organization. He brings professionalism. He shows that he is not only a great player, but a great family man, as his "Father of the Year" award that he has won, shows.

Brian Dawkins, like Wolverine, is a Superhero. Maybe not in the literal sense, but rather, in the way that he carries himself. The way that he shows his love for his family, God and the game. He is without a doubt, a brave and great human being. He is "a class act."