BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Earlier in the day, Brian Dawkins stood on the stage at Nicollet Mall as the Eagles held their pre-Super Bowl LII Pep Rally. He implored the fans, as they stood silent and hanging on his every word, to bring their collective "A" game to Sunday's Super Bowl because, of course, that's what Dawkins is all about.
He's about giving everything he has. Every play. Every moment.
From 1996 through 2008 he was the heart and soul of a terrific Eagles defense, a game-changing safety used to key coordinator Jim Johnson's defenses. His job was to disrupt, and nobody did it better. We've known all along how special Dawkins was on the field for the Eagles, and how much of an emotional and show-by-example teammate and member of the organization he was off the field.
Now the rest of the NFL world knows it, too.
Dawkins was among the group of eight announced on Saturday night as the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018, and never has a player been more deserving. In his second year of eligibility after finishing his career with three seasons in Denver, Dawkins was elated at the news.
"It's kind of surreal, like you believe it but it's kind of hard to believe," Dawkins said from the team hotel shortly after learning of the honor. "I was telling my wife, Connie, that for a guy, a small safety from Jacksonville, Florida to now find himself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; it's truly something that I never truly thought about. I never thought about getting into the Hall of Fame and now here I am. I'm blessed to be here."
That the news comes as the Eagles prepare to play New England on Sunday makes it even more special. And that Dawkins spent part of his day, waiting for the news, but also delivering a day-before sermon to thousands of Eagles fans watching in snowy Minneapolis and online through the team's website and app makes it just, well, remarkable. Perfect.
A cherry on the top for Dawkins, whose jersey No. 20 was retired by the team when he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2012.
"Absolutely. There's going to be a lot of celebrating going on. I knew that when I said this last year (when he didn't make the final cut) when we talked that, 'When I get in, we all get in.' So that means the fans get in. On top of being a Hall-of-Fame fan base now, you're going to have the opportunity to celebrate the Super Bowl as well," Dawkins said. "That's what I'm feeling about this weekend."
Dawkins will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August in Canton, Ohio and it will be an incredibly special weekend for Dawkins, the organization, and the worldwide fan base. Dawkins, a second-round draft pick from Clemson in 1996, made it to the top because he was blessed with natural ability, had a great work ethic, and surrounded himself with people who believed in what he could achieve, who he could be.
Now, Dawkins is among the very greatest players in the history of professional football.
The accomplishment is significant on so many levels. Dawkins is the first Eagle since defensive end Claude Humphrey made it as part of the Class of 2014, but Humphrey played only three years with the team. Cris Carter (2013), Richard Dent (2011), and Art Monk (2008) made it as former Eagles, but they had brief careers in Philadelphia.
Not since Reggie White was inducted in 2006 has a longtime Philadelphia Eagle made it.
And now Dawkins.
He's also one of only nine true safeties in the Hall of Fame, so maybe Dawkins will open more doors that way.
"I considered myself a game-changer," Dawkins said. "You can't tell me there aren't many other safeties who change games. I hope to change that perception."
When Dawkins heard the news, he was thrilled. No tears, but excited and appreciative.
"It was just joy," he said. "There weren't really any tears. To be honest with you, I felt it coming. It's crazy to say but I felt it coming. I wasn't surprised by it, but at the same time, it was surprising once again because I don't see myself as this so-called Hall of Famer. I see myself as a husband, a father, and hopefully, a good friend that I'm blessed to come in contact with."
An "A" game. Another one for Brian Dawkins, who on the eve of Super Bowl LII was given the credit he deserved for a career on the field and off that Eagles fans appreciated and continue to appreciate. It is a proud and special moment for everyone.