It’s going to be a big Sunday for NFL football at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles will host the New York Giants in what should be a huge NFC East contest.
In addition, the Eagles will retire the No. 20 jersey of longtime safety Brian Dawkins in a special halftime ceremony. Dawkins is one of the franchise’s all-time great players and a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the eyes many NFL experts.
He played 13 years at free safety for the Eagles (1996–2008) before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos (2009–2011). He went to nine career Pro Bowls, played on five NFC championship teams and one Super Bowl team with the Eagles.
Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, the Eagles’ current starting safeties, are well aware of Dawkins’ exploits at the position. Allen and Coleman know about his legacy, too.
“It’s going to be huge,” Allen said. “That stadium is going to erupt. He’s Mr. Philadelphia. He’s a good guy from the time I met him. He deserves everything he gets.”
Dawkins, like Allen, hails from the state of Florida. He was a great football player at Raines High School in Jacksonville. He was a three-year starter at Clemson University. The Eagles selected him in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft. Allen, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, played for the University of South Florida. In 2010, he was selected in the second round and is in his third season with the Eagles. Dawkins showed a lot of people that you don’t have to be a first round in order to be successful in the NFL.
“He’s a hard worker and played even harder,” Allen said. “He’s the man. What else can you say? The thing I heard is he played 100 miles an hour. If you make a mistake and you’re playing 100 miles an hour that makes up for a lot of stuff.”
Coleman is certainly a blue-collar player who plays the game with a lot of aggressiveness. He knows that Dawkins covered a lot of ground at his position. He came up and made tackles on running plays and prevented a lot of big plays in the secondary with his pass coverage.
“He’s one of the best,” said Coleman, former Ohio State standout in his third season with the Eagles. “He was one of my mentors growing up of just watching him play. The thing that really sticks out to me is the passion that he played the game with. He made big play after big play when his team needed it.
“I did a little highlight reel of him. It’s amazing how many times he came up clutch for the team. There’s a reason why he is who he is. There’s a reason why he’s done what he’s done and why his number is being retired this week.”
NOTE: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick also has vivid memories of Dawkins from Vick’s playing days with the Atlanta Falcons. Vick played against Dawkins in the playoffs, most notably the 2004 NFC championship game when the Eagles defeated the Falcons 27-10 to advance to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“Brian Dawkins was a great player,” Vick said. “I think the hardest hit I ever took was from Brian Dawkins. He was an outstanding leader, a competitor and an ambassador for the NFL.”