There’s an infamous story that goes along with the 1987 NBA Three-Point Contest. Boston Celtics star Larry Bird, the reigning league MVP and three-time NBA champion, walked into the locker room beforehand and sized us his competition. He looked around. To no one in particular he said, “Which one of you guys is going to finish in second?”
If there was a locker room for the 64 initial selections for the Favorite Eagle Ever Bracket here at Bleeding Green Nation, Brian Dawkins could’ve walked straight in, glanced at Carson Wentz, Michael Vick and Brian Westbrook and uttered the same statement that oozes with confidence. There was no doubt who was coming in first in this little distraction of a project I put together this week. It was fun for me. I hope it was fun for readers too, but it was ultimately an exercise in seeing what Weapon X’s margin of victory would be. Dawkins garnered 87.4 percent of the vote against Reggie White, the best defensive end in the history of professional football. He was that good on the field and even more beloved off it.
Dawkins was the personification of the blue-collar ethos Philadelphians subscribe to. He was deeply passionate with his hype speeches. He was maniacal when swarming to ball-carriers or racing to errant passes. Dawkins crawled out of the tunnel before every home game like a man possessed and believed himself to be a berserker superhero with adamantium claws and a healing factor that allowed him to play 16 seasons in the NFL.
We have our Favorite Eagle Ever Bracket winner...— BleedingGreenNation (@BleedingGreen) April 5, 2020
To no one’s surprise, @BrianDawkins was crowned champion after steamrolling the competition. Thank you to Weapon X himself for being a midnight green legend!
Send us your favorite B-Dawk pic, .gif, video or moment! pic.twitter.com/467cYqd6jV
Dawkins was my first favorite athlete ever and he will almost assuredly be my last. From my earliest memories of watching sports with my Philly die-hard father to my freshman year in high school, Dawkins was an omnipresent figure in my sports world. Sports were and remain my whole life. In that way, Dawkins was as an essential part of my life as anything. He was a family member, a constant presence who I connected with every Sunday in the fall and winter.
I received a Brian Dawkins midnight green Reebok jersey for Christmas when I was in second grade. I wore it during that 2002 playoff run that ended in heartbreak against Tampa Bay. I wore the same jersey while lounging around my apartment last Sunday, watching old Eagles highlights to cure my quarantine-induced boredom. It has been with me for three different coaching regimes and an infinite amount of heartbreaking moments before I wore it to the Eagles Super Bowl parade, as I met the love of my life in a twist of fate.
I’ve written numerous times, on this website too, about my battles with mental illness, as I tried to destigmatize in the macho world we live in. I discussed how the Eagles became my solace in a dark world. Only a couple of years later, my favorite athlete began to talk about how he even struggled through depression over the last two decades, going as far to contemplate taking his own life while playing for the Birds in the late 1990s. That the strongest, fiercest man in the city’s history could fall prey to some of the same issues that I dealt with was heartwarming and reassuring. As I watched Dawkins get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, he spoke at length about his struggles with depression. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up and shed some tears.
“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
If the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles still exist long after I’ve left this strange planet of ours, people will still be singing the praises of Dawkins. He appeals to fans of all generations and backgrounds. Football is the city of Philadelphia’s greatest unifier and Dawkins is the paragon of that sense of community.
Brian Dawkins will always be my favorite Eagle ever. I just need to find out who’s coming in second.
UPDATE: Dawkins responds!
I will be Forever humbled by the love, & for the love of such crazy passionate, NEVER die fans. The feeling is 100% mutual!!— Brian Dawkins (@BrianDawkins) April 6, 2020
#FlyEaglesFly #BBTB https://t.co/atrFmUvZov
There are None that has, is, or will walk the face of the earth that is considered “strong”, that didn’t start off at place of weakness or lack. Be it physically, mentally, spiritually & in most cases, financially. Most chose the tough paths & grew stronger over time. #BBTB https://t.co/F0jLGOaHV6— Brian Dawkins (@BrianDawkins) April 6, 2020