The news, inevitable for all who wear a uniform, arrived Monday morning: Brian Dawkins is retiring.
Next stop: Canton.
Having been paid to watch this Eagles team for 3 decades now -- and if that isn't the gig of the century, I don't know what is -- there are few certainties and many conflicted feelings about different people and different events along the way. Frankly, the end here for Dawkins was one of those uncertain, conflicted things. Because, on the one hand, I understood why the team wanted to move on but, on the other hand, I wrote about how they had to find a way to get him to stay.
So, conflcits. Except for this:
The man is a Hall of Famer.
I know that a lot of safeties don't get in. I know there will be other names thrown out there. But I also know this, and I know it as certainly as I know anything: that as a player, and as a person, over a long period of time, I find it hard to believe that any player in the NFL defined his team and inspired his team the way Dawkins did.
This was a team that went to the Super Bowl, and repeatedly went to the playoffs, and turned over its personnel more than once, and counted on somebody to be its beacon. They wanted an example of tougness. They wanted an example of seriousness of purpose. They also wanted, and needed, a player whose connection to the fans was so unbreakable that it helped to renew and refuel the emotion it took to sustain excellence over a decade.
Brian Dawkins did all of that -- and made a boatload of Pro Bowls besides.
He is more than deserving. And here is the thing: his election would be your election because of those bonds he forged. He would be going and you would be going.
How can they deny an entire football city?
Short answer: they can't.