This past weekend, Brian Dawkins’ bust was unveiled in Canton, Ohio to forever rest among the greats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was well deserved for the former Eagles safety who played 16 seasons in the NFL, 13 in Philadelphia.
But as Dawkins stood on the stage and delivered a passionate speech in front of a massive gathering of Eagles fans, it brought up the question: Will any current Eagles follow in Dawkins’ footsteps and qualify for the Hall of Fame?
It’s hard to judge young, talented players such as Carson Wentz who have plenty of potential but a lot to prove. However, two veterans come to mind immediately: left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles.
For Peters, the 6-4, 328-pound tackle has plenty of accolades going into his 15th NFL season. Peters is a six-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowl selection, qualifying for the Pro Bowl in each season he’s played fully healthy since 2008. In a recent article, a panel of ESPN writers named Peters the only unanimous candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Peters’ greatness is even more impressive considering his unconventional path. In 2000, Peters was on the Arkansas scout team as a defensive lineman. In 2004, he was signed by the Bills as an undrafted free agent to play tight end. Now, at age 36, he is still widely regarded as an elite left tackle.
Peters said on Monday after practice that he was unable to see much of the Hall of Fame festivities over the weekend, choosing to watch some of it on a replay. But he wasn’t taking any notes for a future speech. Peters is all business going into the 2018 season and not looking ahead to his potential weekend in Canton.
“It would really mean a lot, but I’m not thinking about that right now,” Peters said. “I’m looking forward to the season and making another run.”
Sproles has a strong résumé of his own. He leads all active players with 19,155 all-purpose yards and currently ranks eighth on the all-time list. He trails Tim Brown by 527 yards for fifth place and aims to take that spot this season.
The “mighty mouse” is also a three-time Pro Bowl selection who received All-Pro honors in 2015. He is well known for his versatility, being the only player in NFL history to record at least 30 receiving touchdowns (30), 20 rushing touchdowns (22), one kickoff return touchdown (2), and one punt return touchdown (7). All of this is especially impressive considering Sproles is only 5-6, 190 pounds.
Sproles did take in Dawkins’ speech on Saturday as well as Ray Lewis’ remarks. He was especially moved by Dawkins’ openness about his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“It was moving,” Sproles said. “The thing about his, you would have never known that he was battling some of the stuff that he said. I feel like it means a lot. And hopefully anyone who is also battling can go get some help now.”
Sproles was also impressed with how Eagles fans came out in droves to see Dawkins’ enshrinement and the way he is beloved in Philadelphia. It made Sproles think about what it would be like to stand on that stage himself.
“It would mean a lot just to be up there with all the greats,” Sproles said. “To see him up there, it makes you want to be up there so bad. I’d just be blessed to be there with them.”