- On the eve of Brian Dawkins' enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio was swimming in Midnight Green.
CANTON, Ohio – What is immediately noticeable upon entering the vicinity of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the volume of Eagles fans chanting, "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES," in thunderous harmony through the streets of this suburban Ohio city indicating, naturally, that the party continues for those who love the Philadelphia Eagles. What is clearly apparent as well once into the private spaces next to the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Class is that Brian Dawkins is having the time of his life.
Dawkins spent a chunk of his Friday shooting the breeze with the media and then stepping away for an exclusive one-on-one with the team before receiving his Gold Jacket at Friday night's private dinner. Dawkins ended his night, a long one, with his own party featuring former teammates and coaches and friends and family.
"I'm in awe. Of course I am. I've seen all of these great players who are in the Hall of Fame, players I watched and looked up to who played this game and I'm like, 'Wow.' It's extremely humbling," Dawkins said. "I never looked at myself as a Hall of Famer. I looked at myself as a good teammate, consistent, dominant. You guys called me a legend. I just looked at myself as what I just said as well as a father and husband and all of those things."
OK, so let's make this very clear: Dawkins is a legend for what he did on the football field and how he conducts himself away from the game as a family man and a man of faith. He has retired from the game to go into business – he's got a book coming out in the fall – and he will be a hot commodity in the motivational speaking circuit and for anyone who needs a jolt of love and reality and passion.
This is the weekend for Dawkins, there is no question about that. Adding to it, though, is the incredible support from the fans, who are going to be in the thousands in the stands on Saturday night as Dawkins speaks after being presented by former teammate Troy Vincent.
What made Friday so fun was the day-before mood, if you will. The winding hallways of the Pro Football Hall of Fame are steeped with the history of the National Football League, including some very Eagles-centric areas. Downstairs, in a corner, are some of the takeaways from Dawkins' dual-locker setup at the NovaCare Complex. There are some of his "Wolverine" figurines that he had. His "Weapon X" nameplate is displayed. Gloves and his Eagles helmet with that menacing black visor are part of the locker show.
Upstairs at the Hall is a Super Bowl LII case with head coach Doug Pederson's shirt and pants and the visor and headset that he wore. Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles's entire uniform is part of the presentation, along with the football that he caught to score on the Philly Special play just before halftime.
Eagles fans lined the hallways with Vikings fans (Randy Moss), Bears fans (Brian Urlacher), and Ravens fans (Ray Lewis) to dominate the League of Nations jersey show. One minute you could hear the Eagles fight song and the next more "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES" chants – all with good intentions and perfect behavior and respect.
Later in the afternoon, Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie visited the Hall of Fame and enjoyed an extensive tour of the private archives room and the public hallways, including the room with all of the Hall of Fame busts lined up and looking so lifelike. On the left side was Reggie White, inducted in 2004. On the right, Tommy McDonald, who went into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
A historian from the Hall told the group with Lurie that since 1920 there have been approximately 27,000 players to suit up for a game in the NFL, and that 318 are enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Do the math: Those who make the Pro Football Hall of Fame represent 0.012 percent of the players who have been in a game.
And Dawkins is one of them.
He wouldn't reveal the contents of his speech, one that he spent considerable time preparing, but Dawkins did say that he knows he's going to cry, perhaps multiple times, and that he's going to thank as many people as possible and that if he forgets to mention you, don't fret. He is all about love in his life, about the value of hard work and faith paying off. He's going to speak to the fans who supported him so much and who recognized his toughness and passion and personal accountability.
Canton is the center of the NFL universe this weekend and the Eagles – Dawkins, Lurie, the Eagles organization, and most certainly the fans – are more than living in it. They've taken over the town, with the best yet to come on Saturday night.