The first thing Ike Reese did when he heard that Brian Dawkins had decided to retire was call Dawk and tell him he was incredibly relieved.
I said, Listen, 16 years, I dont know how you did it, especially with the way you play, Reese said. But I told him, We former teammates were concerned about you. We didnt want to see your career end with you on a stretcher, being carted off the field. We didnt want to see you as an older man without full use of your arms and legs or with a debilitating injury.
He was always jeopardizing doing permanent damage, and that scared us. He wasnt going to change the way he played. He had too much pride for that.
For Brian to walk away, I know it was really hard for him. Deep down, he feels he can give it one more year. For him to walk away on his own terms and walk away with his health, thats huge.
I think with Dawk, guys like him, they reach a level where they just cant accept mediocrity. They cant accept playing like anyone else. Theyre so used to being the best at what they do, and they cant see themselves out there if theyre not at that level.
Father Time is undefeated. You might hold him off for a while, hes going to get you eventually.
Dawkins, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety and one of the greatest Eagles ever, announced his retirement Monday, and several of his former Eagles teammates the last couple days reflected on Dawks 16-year career.
Ronnie Lott came into the league as a corner, but as far as a pure safety who was so multi-talented -- covering receivers, covering backs like Marshall Faulk out of the backfield, covering the best tight ends, hit you in the box, put fear in you -- he really was the blueprint for what Baltimore and Pittsburgh wanted when they drafted Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, said Reese, a special teams Pro Bowl pick who roomed with Dawkins for several years in training camp and on the road. He was the model for the best safeties of our generation.
Dawkins, a member of the Eagles all-time team and the NFLs Team of the 2000s, spent the 1996 through 2008 seasons with the Eagles before finishing his career with three years in Denver.
The biggest thing I noticed right away when I got there as a rookie was how humble a guy he was, Mikell said Monday from St. Louis, where hes preparing for his second season with the Rams. With everything he had accomplished in football, everything on the field and off the field, he was just a very humble guy and never carried himself like he was a superstar. He treated everybody with respect, and that showed what kind of person he was.
On the field? He was just unbelievable. Last year, I saw him on film, and he was still out there running people down, laying people out, playing the game the way its supposed to be played. To me, hes a legend. Not just in Philly but around the NFL.
He didnt say a lot, but when he did speak, it resonated. Thats why he was such a great leader. When he spoke, everybody listened. As a player? Forget it -- cover? Blitz? Bringing the lumber? He did it all. And he was a showman. Just look at him. The guy was a speciman. I mean, he was ripped. It was amazing for me to just be around him and learn from him.
Dawkins is one of only five players and two safeties in NFL history with at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions.
How much did he mean to the Eagles? In the 45 years before Ray Rhodes drafted Dawkins in 1996, the Eagles had won five playoff games. In his 13 years here, they won 10. Since he left, they havent won any.
He was one of the greatest players I ever played with, no question about it, three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas said. Just the work ethic. He had a work ethic like no other.
He really enjoyed practice, and that says a lot. Theres a lot of guys, they love the game of football but dont love practice. Brian Dawkins loved practice. He was 100 mph at practice. We were looking at this guy like, Whats wrong with you?
He used to move around slow before we went to practice. You didnt know whether Dawk would make through the day, he would be moving so slow, like he was about to die. But as soon as he put the helmet on, you knew he was coming to work. You talk about a guy who really loved to play the game of football. I loved and respected him or that. It rubbed off on everybody.
The guys wanted to win for him. The thing I wish we could have done especially because of the type of player, caliber of player he was is win a Super Bowl. If anybody ever deserved to win one, it was him. He loved the game. We all loved the game of football, but he really loved the game of football. I cant even quantify it.
The game is going to miss a guy like that.
Dawkins had a special relationship, a unique relationship, with Philly sports fans, who are notoriously tough on their athletes and demand a peerless work ethic more than anything -- more than even skill and talent.
Dawkins had all three.
I really feel like when he played the game, he gave everything he had, Mikell said. How can you not fall in love with a guy like that? No matter what, he gave up his body to win the game and to help the team. Cant do anything but respect a player like that. He was going to give it all no matter what the score, how many points we were winning by or losing by.
Ive never seen a guy who would routinely take on guys three times the size and weight and wouldnt think twice it and then would demolish them. Thats the only way he knew how to play the game, and thats why the fans respected him so much.
No two players could be more different than Douglas and Dawkins. Dawkins was the first guy in line at Bible study, Douglas the first guy in line for the post-game celebration. Dawkins is deeply religious, almost obsessively quiet before games. Douglas was notorious for his screaming, X-rated pre-game locker room tirades.
One time Im getting ready for a game and yelling, cussin like a sailor thats what I normally do, Douglas said. One time, I guess I was a little over the top for Dawk. He pulled me aside and said, Hey, Hugh. He put his hands on his lips and I said I apologize, Im sorry. And thats was it.
I knew if he was saying something, I must be ridiculous. He would let you be who you were, but if Dawk is telling me to be quiet, I must be over the top.