- It was a gameday for Brian Dawkins. That's how it felt. Dawkins, again, left everything he had on that stage. It was an epic performance, perfect for the moment.
CANTON, Ohio – Brian Dawkins first appeared on stage at Tom Benson Memorial Stadium at 6:58 p.m. on Saturday wearing a white T-shirt that read "Blessed By The Best" under his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket, complemented by white pants and a beige fedora, rolling his fist at a crowd that was on its feet, in Midnight Green head to toe, and showering him with great applause and love.
At 7:30 p.m., the chant "Bri-AN Daw-KINS, Bri-AN Daw-KINS" thundered through the crowd as Eagles Nation waited patiently in anticipation of Dawkins to make his Enshrinement speech. The 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class Enshrinement Ceremony was going to be special, indeed.
Throughout the night, the "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES" chant reverberated through the stadium and the fans celebrated Dawkins, continued the party six months to the day after the franchise-altering Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, and had themselves a Hall of Fame experience on these hallowed grounds. Former teammates and coaches from all over the NFL and around the country came to pay their respects to B-Dawk, of whom former Eagles linebacker Ray Farmer said: "He not only made me a better football player, he made me a better man. That's the kind of impact Brian had on all of us."
At 8:48 p.m., emcee Chris Berman stepped to the microphone.
"I heard a rumor that the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last year," Berman said. "Is this true?"
The crowd, of course, went crazy.
"The merriment continues in the City of Brotherly Love," Berman said as the crowd quieted just enough for him to speak.
Berman then transitioned to Dawkins, calling him the "heart and soul of the team of the last decade" and that it was now time for Dawkins to "get his moment in the sun." Berman said that Dawkins "played with enough passion for the entire defense."
Then it was time for former teammate Troy Vincent to present Dawkins in a recorded video in which Vincent called Dawkins "a real-life Rocky Balboa" who "ignited the crowd, ignited the city, and ignited the sidelines."
"I think he's the greatest Philadelphia Eagle to wear the uniform," Vincent said.
Once the video ended, Dawkins came out in Dawkins style, crawling on the stage as he met Vincent and embraced his fellow member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame. The two then removed the cover from Dawkins' Hall of Fame bust and Dawkins bent down and looked at it, shaking his head in approval.
And then Dawkins took to the microphone, voice hoarse and at times barely audible from the emotion and the week of talking. The crowd stood and applauded and yelled and whistled for a good 30 seconds before Dawkins spoke.
"First of all," Dawkins began, launching into a 22-minute masterpiece, "hallelujahhhhhhh! … I did not do this by myself."
Dawkins praised Vincent and then his high school and college teammate Patrick Sapp and then thanked his teammates and those who cared for him in his career.
"I gave everything I had till the last drop for you because I loved you so doggone much," Dawkins said. "Thank you."
Dawkins hit all of the points in his emotional, real, honest speech. He spoke of the pain he has suffered in the past – including a bout with depression that nearly led him to an attempted suicide in his rookie season with the Eagles, going so far as to say he was planning a way to kill himself. Every step along the way, Dawkins delivered with integrity and the energy that made him the most beloved Eagle in the history of the franchise.
The fans hung on every word. They showered him with love as they did when he played as Dawkins battled tears at the 5-minute mark as he thanked the coaches in his remarkable career, including Eagles defensive coordinators Emmitt Thomas and the late Jim Johnson. He thanked Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and former head coaches Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid. Then it was on to the Dawkins family, and he presented to his wife, Connie, a gold veil to wear to match his Hall of Fame jacket.
Dawkins was on top of his game speaking from the heart, and at the 20-minute, 30-second mark, he made the crowd go berserk.
"And finally," he said, "let's talk about these Eagles fans. I know some of you drove all the way from Philly to be here. You put some hard work and money into being here to celebrate with your boy. Thank you for everything."
"Bri-AN Daw-KINS. Bri-AN Daw-KINS. Bri-AN Daw-KINS."
Dawkins appeared backstage 10 minutes after he finished a photo opportunity with his bust and he took a few moments to talk about the fans, once again.
"They know how much they meant," he said. "I can't come up with any more adjectives to say how much I love those crazy cats."
It was a gameday for Dawkins. That's how it felt. Dawkins, again, left everything he had on that stage. It was an epic performance, perfect for the moment.
Dawkins finished his post-speech interview as fans, on the other side of the fence, sang at the top of their lungs the Eagles Fight Song and chanted his name and drowned out anything coming from Dawkins' mouth. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night as a world of Eagles fans celebrated the moment with the greatness that is Brian Dawkins.