Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins went to five NFC Championship Games in 13 years as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He fell four points shy of hoisting that elusive Lombardi Trophy in 2005 and never made a return trip. Not for lack of effort.
Dawkins wore his emotions on his shoulder pads in 224 career games, including 183 in midnight green. He would get a ring in 2018 when the Eagles won the only Super Bowl in franchise history after transitioning to a front-office role.
It was bittersweet, according to Dawkins, and it was a long road getting there. Dawkins jumped on a Zoom call with Heavy to talk about his legendary career and the state of the current Eagles. Spoiler alert, it’s probably too early to compare Jalen Hurts to Donovan McNabb.
Here is what B-Dawk had to say about Hurts and the state of the current Eagles:
Mike Greger (MG): It’s only been two starts in 2021, but what have you seen out of young Jalen Hurts?
Brian Dawkins (BD): He knows how to pick himself up. He’s already had a lot of negativity in his young life and look at how he’s handled it, right? So that tells me that when things are rough, when things are not going well, he can be a calm in the midst of the locker room to help guys move in a better direction. He’s young, I’m not putting everything on him right now but it seems like, everything seems to me, he’s already battle tested.
MG: Do you see any comparisons between Hurts and your old teammate Donovan McNabb?
BD: The ability to get out of harm’s way, the ability to maneuver, to move the pocket – Those are some of the things that you see both of those guys are able to do. I think Donovan had a stronger arm. Donovan had a cannon on him, so he had a stronger arm.
But what I see about Jalen that I’m most excited about is not his play on the field, it’s him having to earn the quarterback position in Alabama then lose it, pick himself back up to go somewhere else to earn that starting job. That tells me that you have a young man that is not going to crumble under pressure.
MG: Just listening to Hurts during press conferences and to hear his teammates talk about him, it’s eye opening. He appears to have the mental side conquered. Which is harder to do, right?
BD: The mental allows the game to slow down. When our mental is running all over the place, just like when you’re watching it as a fan, it’s moving at lightning speed but when your mental is under control, the game literally – for those that really understand it – the game looks like a walk-through. That’s how slow it begins to move when you have your mental under control.”
MG: I know you have a relationship with K’Von Wallace, the second-year safety who got his first start last week for the Eagles. He and your son, Brian Jr., were roommates at Clemson. How is he developing?
BD: It’s early. There are still things that he needs to get better at, and he knows that, pretty sure he knows that. For a lot of this team, it’s the same thing. They are going to have to learn on the fly a little bit about how things are done in the National Football League. It’s different than college. So he’s on the field, which is a good thing. That bodes well for him going forward, if he can stay away from the penalties.
MG: The safety position in Philly is a legit thing. That goes back to Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters before you. Is there added pressure playing safety for the Eagles?
BD: It started before me, I wanted to up the ante when it came to the safety position. Hop back in the day, Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters, going all the way back to Bill Bradley. My idea of what a safety should be is an absolute game-changer. That idea didn’t come from anyone in Philadelphia history, it came from someone in 49ers history, and that’s Ronnie Lott. He affected the game in every statistical category, there was not an area of his game that he was weak in. That’s how I modeled my game.
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No Hard Feelings Toward Eagles’ Organization
Dawkins endured a nasty divorce from the Eagles in 2009, one that left a bad taste in his mouth at the time. He eventually made amends with the franchise that drafted him 61st overall in 1996, but it was a stark reminder that the NFL is a business.
And something that his “big bro” Troy Vincent reminded him of. So Dawkins was forced to sign with the Denver Broncos and play out his final three years in the Mile High City where he made two more Pro Bowls.
MG: You say in the book that the Eagles made you a low-ball offer, not what you expected in 2009. Any hard feelings at a all toward the organization?
BD: One of the things that I had to do was forgive. Because if you don’t forgive someone, it doesn’t hurt that person, it hurts you. So I didn’t necessarily forgive them for them, I forgave them because I did not want that to impinge upon my relationships going forward. Because if I’m holding onto this hatred, this distrust or whatever the case may be, that poison filters into other relationships whether you realize it or not.
MG: Eagles fans didn’t want you to leave, though. Not like that. It didn’t seem fair.
BD: And the relationship it would have leaked into, it would have poisoned my relationship with the fan base and I did not want that, or my former teammates. No, I did not want that to happen. I’m not allowing the decision-making of a couple of individuals, whoever it was, to then negate everything I had worked so hard for.
Playing with Passion, Repping Philly
The affection between Dawkins and the Philly faithful was a natural one, born out of a similar mindset. They shared a certain kind of “dark side.” The Hall of Famer goes into great detail about how much he adores and respects them in his new book “Blessed by the Best.”
In it, Dawkins talks about giving an Eagles fan the gameplan on a Saturday night and sending him into the locker room on Sunday. He truly believes that person – assuming he was athletically-gifted – would be successful (see: Vince Papale). And that’s the way Dawkins played the game.
MG: The connection you had with Eagles fans was something no Philly athlete had before you. Where did that come from? How did a kid from Jacksonville achieve that?
BD: And so my mentality was, I don’t expect you to cheer for me. I’m supposed to give you a reason to cheer for me. That was my mindset. Because I’m working. I’m not going to blame somebody else. Sometimes, it’s not my fault but I’m going to take blame and give away praise so when you look at me like ‘Dawk, you made that play’ and I’m like, ‘No, I have to give credit to you because he’s the one that got pressure on the quarterback and so forth and so on.
MG: Tell me about the Vince Papale effect. Why do you think someone from the South Philly playground could come in and play on Sundays?
BD: I played with my emotions on my sleeve, doggone-it, I didn’t care what you thought. I’m going to have a good time. I’m going to come on the field and act the fool. And I believe fans, if you had a chance to play, and you were given that chance on a Saturday night – all of a sudden, you showed up in the hotel and you knew the gameplan, you had athletic ability and you played the position – if you played the safety position or you played defense, you would have played the way I played. You wouldn’t have been all calm. No, you would have been all over the place. Because that’s your only chance to play the game. You would have played the game the way I played it.