Philadelphia Eagles News

Before Polamalu, There Was Dawkins

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Troy Polamalu announced his retirement this week from the NFL after a sterling 12-year career, one that should result in the safety being placed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But Polamalu's farewell should serve as a reminder that there is another safety who deserves a call to the Hall first.

Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins remains arguably the most beloved Eagle of all time as he just won the first-ever Bird Bracket, a fan vote celebrating the best current and former players in team history.

But Dawkins changed the way the league viewed the safety position.

A look back at the storied career of Brian Dawkins, who announced his retirement ...

"Brian created the template that Troy Polamalu became," said Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger on 94 WIP's Mike and Ike show Friday. "When Brian came in and especially when Jim Johnson created this new role for him where he made him this multi-dimensional player, where he wasn't a centerfielder like a lot of other safeties and he wasn't just a box player, but he was a blitzer and he was a great run defender and when teams went to the spread he could play man to man.

"Brian was this fully dimensional force out there that made every coach in the league reevaluate and reassess how they viewed the safety position. All of a sudden teams went into the draft looking for their own Brian Dawkins. That's what led teams to the Ed Reeds and the Troy Polamalus."

Dawkins was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time first-team All-Pro. He earned seven of those Pro Bowls as a member of the Eagles after being a second-round pick out of Clemson in 1996. A member of the Eagles Hall of Fame, the Eagles' 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s, Dawkins is tied for first in franchise history with 34 interceptions and also added 37 forced fumbles and 26 sacks. In fact, Dawkins is one of just six players in NFL history with at least 30 interceptions and 20 sacks.

"Brian Dawkins brought a new meaning to the way that you play the safety position and how you can use that position, no pun intended, as a weapon and that's what Brian Dawkins was," said Dawkins' former teammate and Mike and Ike co-host Ike Reese. "He was our best player. For a moment there, he was the best player on the entire team - offense, defense and special teams."

Between the stats and analytics, Dawkins is viewed as the better of the two safeties. Dawkins is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

"In my view, he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer, I think. I'm saying that not just because he's a Philly guy. It's because I thought he was that good and I thought he was that impactful," Didinger said. "If those guys (Polamalu and Reed) are Hall of Famers, and I think they are, then you've got to honor the guy who created the mold and that was Brian Dawkins."

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