As with most things in life, after 16 seasons, fans get tired. Whether it’s another horny middle-aged man hitting on the grossly thin admin assistant on Survivor, the country bumpkin who came from nothing on American Idol, or the 27th season of Real World in Miami, fans eventually die down each and every week, each and every season.
But Monday, as former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins announced his retirement (via Twitter) from the NFL after 16 highlight-reeled seasons and nine Pro Bowls, I’m left with the question: “Was anyone done with No. 20?”
Dawkins spent 13 hard-hitting seasons in Philadelphia after being drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft out of Clemson. That very season, Dawkins quickly showed me how important the role of a safety was.
To this day my dad still thinks he was the one who taught me all the tips to play the defensive position, but in truth it was Dawkins who taught me that reading the quarterback’s eyes was a surefire way to snag an interception. It was Dawkins who showed me how be a leader on my very own sports teams and how to be loud and in charge. It was Dawkins who showed me how to viciously tackle an opposing sorority girl at the knees and drill her into the ground. It was Dawkins who showed me that a player playing off the line of scrimmage wasn’t a B-team kind of athlete—he was in fact quite the opposite. It was Dawkins who showed me defensive players were just as important as offensive players.
For girls, those are the kinds of integral aspects of sports that create a real and genuine understanding and love of the game.
After playing almost his entire career with the Eagles, 2009 marked what could easily be one of the greatest mistakes in franchise history by letting Weapon X become a free agent and allowing him to sign a five-year deal with that we-just-traded-Tim-Tebow-for-Peyton-Manning-team. Now, once again a free agent, the quick and agile DB decided to leave the turf on an all-too-rare high note, leaving fans like me desperately hoping he pulls a Brett Favre. (I’m not talking camera phones; I’m talking a change of heart.)
To be able to play in Philly is to be able to play anywhere. To last as long as Dawkins did with the rowdy fanbase (the one I am so proud to call my own) without fans turning on him or throwing batteries says a lot about his character both on and off the field.
Dawkins was, and is, the epitome of all that Philly fans expect: to be able to talk the talk and back it up. The man was a reckless beast on the field. He could get to a pass faster than Heidi Montag could get to a plastic surgeon and he could do it numerous times.
Number of pass breakups for Dawkins: 98.
Number of plastic surgeries for Montag: 10. That we know of.
His unprecedented love for the game and ultimate desire to win resonated with Philly fans and most recently with Bronco Nation. Watching him run out onto the field and witness his innate ability to pump up fans and teammates while simultaneously instilling fear in the opposing team is something everyone in the NFL will miss.
At the age of 38, the now retiree has numerous accolades to be proud of as he departs from the field with his head held high and his body healthy. Dawkins pioneered one of the toughest defenses in the NFC alongside Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent during his time in Philly, as well as set franchise records for games played (183) and interceptions (34). Perhaps one of his most impressive stats is his 42 forced fumbles, the most by a defensive back in the NFL.
He could play zone, he could play man, he could defend against a corner route, a Hail Mary or the best run game in the league. Brian Dawkins was the backbone of the Eagles defense for so many years and his departure from the Eagles' starting lineup three years ago still confuses fans to this very day, even more so now that the future HOF’er won’t be retiring in an Eagles jersey, as most would agree he should.
John Elway said it best (also via Twitter): “Congratulations on a Hall of Fame Career, Dawk!!!”