He is my favorite professional athlete of all time. He might be my single favorite person of all time. He has been the unquestioned leader of my team for 13 years. He is one of the most feared defenders in the National Football League and trains during the offseason with MMA fighter Tim Catalfo.
And, as his career nears its unfortunate conclusion, it's time to ask ourselves: Is Brian Dawkins worthy of selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Brian Dawkins was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He is the most popular player in Philadelphia and is currently the longest-tenured Philadelphia athlete.
As a 23 year old, Dawkins was given the starting job in 1996. He intercepted three passes and forced two fumbles that season. He recorded his first quarterback sack and led the Eagles into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Dawkins intercepted three passes in the 1997 season, including a 64-yarder for his first NFL touchdown against the division rival New York Giants.
Dawkins was the one bright spot for the Eagles' franchise in 1998. He intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in his 14 games. He also began earning a reputation as one of the more feared hitters in the National Football League.
In 1999, No. 20 earned his first selection to the Pro Bowl. He intercepted a pass in each of the season's first three games. He also returned an interception for 67 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins, the longest play of his career.
He successfully defended 24 passes, a career-high, and tops in the National Football League. His six forced fumbles led the NFC and he racked up 1.5 sacks. It was arguably the greatest year of his career.
Dawkins continued his dominance over the next eight seasons. He intercepted 21 more passes, including three game-winning fourth quarter interceptions. His consistency shows in the fact that he has never intercepted more than four passes in a season, but never less than two in any full season.
He holds the unusual distinction of being the only player in the history of the NFL to intercept a pass, sack a quarterback, recover a fumble, and catch a touchdown in the same game, against the Houston Texans in 2002.
The single biggest play of Dawkins' career came in overtime in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2003. He intercepted future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre on the first play of overtime and returned the pass 35 yards to set up David Akers' game-winning field goal. The Eagles advanced to their third straight NFC Championship Game.
He has been feared throughout his career for his trademark safety blitz. His ability to blitz from his position at free safety has resulted in 20 career sacks, almost unheard of for a defensive back.
In fact, in 2008, Dawkins became the ninth official member of the 20/20 club (20 interceptions and 20 sacks in a career). The first eight members include five linebackers—Seth Joyner, William Thomas, Ray Lewis, Wilbur Marshall, and Donnie Edwards, one cornerback—Ronde Barber, and three safeties—Dawkins, Rodney Harrison, and LeRoy Butler.
Dawkins was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons. Four of those years resulted in All-Pro selections as well.
Dawkins' fierce competitiveness, size, and strength have resulted in some of the biggest hits in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. He covers like a cornerback and hits like a linebacker. His notable hits include poundings of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Alge Crumpler, Green Bay Packers tight end Bubba Franks, New York Giants wide receiver Ike Hilliard, and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad.
He is one of the only players to "suplex" an opponent in a game. In 2004, the Sporting News named Brian Dawkins No. 1 on the list of “Guys You Don't Want Bearing Down On You.”
He hits clean also. Washington Redskins scout Mike Kelly says that “pound for pound, he might be the most violent guy in the league. He can generate such great speed in a confined space. He closes so rapidly and is just so physically strong. His compact size plays right into playing with leverage. He knows how to come up and through a person, bringing his hips.”
As the defensive leader for the Philadelphia Eagles, Dawkins has led the Birds to seven playoffs berths in 12 seasons. He has played in 15 postseason games, a team-record (eight wins, seven losses). He intercepted at least one pass in the postseason for four consecutive years, also forcing two fumbles.
Sports Illustrated writer Dr. Z has stated that Dawkins is one of a handful of current NFL players who are locks for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As Brian Dawkins, now 35 years old, nears the end of his career, more and more people are asking the question: Is Brian Dawkins a Hall of Famer?
I say absolutely yes.
Dawkins has been selected to six Pro Bowls and has remained a starter throughout his entire NFL career, only missing significant time due to injury in 2003 and 2007. He has participated in more team wins than any player in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He was the leader of a Philly team that won five NFC East titles, reached four consecutive NFC Championship games, and participated in Super Bowl XXXIX. He became the ninth official member of the 20/20 Club and has earned a reputation as one of the more fearsome hitters in the history of the NFL.
He was named to the Eagles' 75th Anniversary Team in 2007, and five years after his retirement, he deserves to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.