The Pro Football Hall of Fame will formally welcome its Class of 2018 on Saturday. This week, Yahoo Sports is highlighting memorable moments for each member of the eight-man class, leading up to the big ceremony.
Brian Dawkins, 1996-2011
Brian Dawkins bounced to his right. Brian Dawkins bounced to his left. Brian Dawkins then grabbed the microphone and relayed one of the more famous postgame speeches in the past 15 years.
“First of all, hallelujah!” he yelled, the steam from his breath flying into the air.
It was 2004, and Dawkins’ Philadelphia Eagles had just clinched a spot in the Super Bowl after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game. At the time, Dawkins, was an Eagles safety. He was a leader in the locker room, too, as well as a clear stalwart on the defense.
Over the course of Dawkins’ 13 seasons with the Eagles (and his three-year stint with the Denver Broncos), this was often the case. He recorded 37 interceptions in 224 regular-season games, good enough for nine Pro Bowl selections, four first-team All-Pro selections and an induction into the Eagles’ Hall of Fame.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Dawkins played football and basketball at William M. Raines High School. As a junior at the school, he met his future wife Connie Kerrin.
Dawkins starred at Clemson in college, where he played three years at free safety. He finished with 247 total tackles and 11 interceptions but maybe more notable, he was incredibly emotional — both after wins and losses. Emotion also entered his personal life after he was selected by the Eagles with the 61st overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft.
Recently, NBC Sports reported Dawkins battled depression as a newlywed. “I just wanted to be in a dark room by myself with nobody,” Dawkins told NBC Sports. “My room, I won’t say was a frequent occurrence, but it was something I would do. My faith back then wasn’t that strong, so I listened to the other voice in my head, and that’s where suicidal thoughts came in, and then actually planning out how I would go about it in such a way that Connie and my son would get the money from my insurance policy.”
Dawkins received help from then-Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas. And in his rookie year, he recorded 74 total tackles and picked off three passes as a rookie, and he continued to start at free safety through that magical 2004 run.
That year, the Eagles, coached then by Andy Reid, began the season with seven wins after losing in the NFC championship the previous three seasons. Indeed, Philadelphia’s goal was to get to and win the Super Bowl.
Donovan McNabb played quarterback on the 2004 team. Brian Westbrook starred at running back. Terrell Owens took the spotlight at wide receiver. And on the defensive side, Dawkins was the guy.
After finishing the regular season 13-3, Philadelphia arrived at the NFC championship with a chance, once again, to break down the door. Dawkins was motivated — the whole team was motivated — and it showed against Michael Vick’s Falcons.
With 2 minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter and the Eagles leading 14-3, Dawkins made a play still shown on video boards to this day. Vick slung one to tight end Alge Crumpler. From his free safety position, Dawkins sprinted toward the ball and drilled Crumpler, who to his credit, held on to make the grab.
The play was indicative of Dawkins’ heart, even though the Eagles eventually lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. So, too, was his postgame speech.
“I tell you what,” Dawkins said that night Philly won the NFC crown. “I wanted to set a tone. We wanted to set a tone as a defense. … We came and we brought it every doggone play.”
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