MINNEAPOLIS – Brian Dawkins packed up his family and flew to Houston last February for what he had hoped would be the announcement that he had made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
After coming up short, he swore he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
“This will be the last time I come out here beforehand,’’ he said last year. “Next year, I’ll just wait [at home].’’
The Eagles kind of spoiled his stay-at-home plan, though, by making it to Super Bowl LII. But this time, Dawkins’ wait didn’t end in disappointment.
The former Eagles All-Pro safety found out Saturday that he had made the Hall of Fame, along with yet another former Eagle, Terrell Owens.
Dawkins and Owens joined linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, and wide receiver Randy Moss as the five members of the Hall’s class of 2018. Also voted in were senior finalists Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer and longtime NFL personnel executive Bobby Beathard, who made it as a contributor.
“We go through pain in life for a reason,” said Dawkins of not getting in last year. “Sometimes it’s to learn more about yourself . I learned a lot about myself last year going through that experience. I learned some things that I needed to know about myself, so that I can appreciate today a lot more. And I do.
“So I’m thankful. I didn’t like it last year [when he didn’t get in]. But I’m thankful for last year because it taught me about some of the things I needed to let go in order to have this day be more special.
Dawkins, who is a football operations executive with the Eagles, was at the team hotel when he received the news.
“This is tremendous news and I could not be more proud of Brian,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement released by the team. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor he truly earned. He epitomized everything we love about the game of football. His intensity, his passion, his love of the game and his leadership were always dialed in at the highest possible level. He connected in every possible way with the city of Philadelphia and our legion of Eagles fans across the country. We cannot wait to celebrate his special night in Canton this summer.”
Dawkins, Owens and the other members of the Hall’s class of 2018 will be inducted into Canton next summer.
This was Owens’ third year as a Hall finalist. He was eliminated in the first 15-to-10 reduction vote both of the last two years. But many voters clearly softened their stance on him this time.
He had been in Minneapolis most of the week, but left town before the results were announced..
Dawkins was a finalist last year in his first year of eligibility and advanced to the final 10. But he was eliminated in the 10-to-5 reduction vote.
He played 16 seasons in the NFL, 13 with the Eagles. For most of his career, he was one of the most impactful players in the game. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000s.
Dawkins is the only defensive player in history – at any position – with more than 25 each of interceptions (37), sacks (26), and forced fumbles (36).
He was the straw that stirred the drink on those great Jim Johnson defenses of the early 2000s. Johnson basically built his entire defense around Dawkins and his skills.
In the 10 seasons Dawkins played for Johnson, the Eagles finished in the top seven in the league in points allowed six times and in the top 10 in total defense six times. He was the most important chess piece in Johnson’s masterful blitz schemes. Former Eagles coach Andy Reid has called Dawkins the best blitzing safety he’s ever seen. Not ever coached. Ever seen.
Dawkins thanked his two defensive coordinators with the Eagles — Emmitt Thomas and the late Jim Johnson. He said he wouldn’t have had the career he did and wouldn’t have made the Hall of Fame without them.
“There are individuals that saw something in me, even as a pro,” Dawkins said.. Emmitt saw this [a Hall of Famer] in me. I did not.
“I saw a player who could hopefully play in the National Football League. He saw this Hall of Famer in me. And he spoke those things. And he would not let me stop until I achieved something. I don’t know if it was going to be this. But it was going to be more than I thought it was going to be.
“Jim allowed me to be me a hundred percent. He devised ways to utilize what God had given me. He brought out everything I could do, and actually encouraged me to do more by putting things in, blitzes specifically, that were extremely challenging. And I had to do a lot of things to bring them to fruition. To have success with them.
“So, Emmitt brought this dude out of me and made me believe I could be more than I thought I was. Jim got that guy. He got that individual who was ready to do any and all things possible with these things that God had given me. So without those two individuals in my life, there’s no way I’m here. Emmitt bringing it out of me and Jim unleashing it on the NFL.”
Even though he never weighed more than 190 pounds, Dawkins was a physically dominating player who could line up all over the field, cover running backs or tight ends or even the other team’s top wide receiver. He was one of the most feared tacklers in the game. His 36 forced fumbles are 17 more than Lewis had in his career.
“Brian was one of the best players I’ve ever coached against,’’ former Packers and Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “You had to prepare for him because he was such an integral part of what they did.
“If you had some inkling of knowing where he was going to be, you might have a little bit of a chance of making something work.’’
“Brian morphed into whatever Jim wanted him to be on a weekly basis,’’ Jon Gruden said. “He could cover. He could blitz. He could play man or zone. And he was an excellent one-on-one tackler. It was just hard to create yards after the catch with him in there. He was a vicious football player and a great competitor. He was the key to that defense.’’
Owens played just two seasons with the Eagles – their Super Bowl season in 2004 and 2005. The second season ended badly with him getting suspended by the team for insubordination.
He tore ligaments in his ankle and broke his leg in 2004, but came back six weeks later and caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Owens was one of the most prolific pass-catchers in league history. He had 1,078 receptions, 15,934 receiving yards and 153 touchdown catches. He is second all-time in receiving yards and third in touchdown catches.
“Terrell Owens is one of the most talented and exciting wide receivers ever to play the game and he is very deserving of this honor,” Lurie said. “We appreciate all of his contributions to the league and to one of the finest seasons in the history of our franchise.”