Jeffrey Lurie has owned the Philadelphia Eagles for 18 seasons. Today, Lurie's favorite player from his time as Chairman/CEO of the Eagles decided to hang up his cleats for good. Brian Dawkins, the beloved Eagles safety who is an eight-time Pro Bowler, announced his retirement after 16 sterling seasons, the first 13 of which took place in Philadelphia.
Dawkins was drafted by the Eagles in 1996, three years before Andy Reid took over as the team's head coach. Lurie believes that Dawkins was as much a part of the team's rise to perennial Super Bowl contender as anyone.
"The thing that I'll always remember about Brian is way back when we were just building a team and our record wasn't that great, every single game whether we were competing for the playoffs or not, this guy was going 100 miles an hour," Lurie said Monday. "He set the example for the whole building of the franchise. There were other key elements, us getting a franchise quarterback, but the whole tone was set by Brian Dawkins. That's why, for me, he's really one of my favorite players in the history of the game and for my ownership of the team, my favorite player I've ever had."
Dawkins' trademarks - the hard hits, the emotional reactions to those hits, and, most iconically, his introductory runs through the tunnel - all helped endear him to the Eagles faithful. It's safe to say that Dawkins is perhaps the most beloved player in franchise history.
"I just think Brian embodied everything about a working class city, talented, work hard, appreciate who you are, be comfortable with yourself, look in the mirror and don't try to put on airs," Lurie said. "Just be hard, tough, want to win and love the fans. He really loved the fans and I think they knew it. With a lot of players there's a barrier sometimes to be able to connect with the fans in terms of communicating from your heart, and Brian always communicated with his heart, the way he'd run out onto the field and played. It's one thing to be alive and energetic, but to play with that consistency every single game of his career was, for me, extremely special."
The summer following Dawkins' 2009 departure in free agency, Lurie told Philadelphia reporters that no player will ever wear Dawkins' No. 20 as long as he remains the owner of the franchise. This fall, Dawkins will return home to Lincoln Financial Field to be honored in front the adoring Eagles' faithful on September 30, which just so happens to be a primetime, nationally televised showdown against the rival New York Giants.
"Well, first of all, it's going to be a great atmosphere going against the Giants on Sunday Night Football," said Lurie of the game, "but having B-Dawk out there and No. 20, I just the think the crowd will be, there's no way to exaggerate, over the top."
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