For as great as he was on the field, it's not been uncommon over the past week to hear former teammates and members of the local media refer to Brian Dawkins as an even better person than a football player.
This story, published on Friday over on 6ABC.com, only adds to that impression.
Chances are, if you're a fan in this town, you remember the late Gary Papa, the former sports anchor of Action News who passed away in 2009 after a fight with cancer.
Papa was, of course, still working while he was sick, and made it to the Eagles' 2009 NFC divisional round matchup against the Giants in North Jersey. The Birds won to advance to the Championship game in Arizona. It was the last Eagles game Papa would cover.
According to the story, written by the station's executive sports producer Mark Meany, Dawkins was the only player left in the Eagles dressing room, and Meany was to produce a postgame interview with Dawkins and Papa. The problem was that Papa, exhausted from the game, was in no shape to make the walk to the other side of the stadium, and Dawkins wasn't in the best condition himself, limping badly.
A quick discussion ensued between myself, Dawkins and Eagles media relations manager Ryan Nissan. It was quickly determined that Dawkins was too hurt to make the walk. We would have to cancel the interview. That is, until I said one simple thing to Dawkins, "Gary's in bad shape, he's having a really rough day."
Dawkins looked me in the eye and said, "Let's go."
From there, Meany tells the story of the slow, painful walk Dawkins made under Giants Stadium. He writes that Dawkins was "limping and silent" the entire way. But when he finally got there:
We finally got to Gary, who was sitting down and still gathering his strength. Dawkins walked up to Gary and helped him out of the chair.
Then the two embraced.
Both men, two of the toughest I've ever met, began to sob in each other's arms. It went on for what seemed like forever.
Throughout the embrace, Meany wrote that Dawkins was whispering something in Papa's ear. He just never knew what, until he finally got the chance to ask.
Check out the full story on 6ABC to read how Dawkins describes the exchange.
I've never gotten to opportunity to meet Dawk, who will have his number retired by the Eagles tonight, but from everything I've read about and heard from the man, he really might be an even better person than he was a safety.
And that's saying something.
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