The Philadelphia Eagles still haven't recovered from losing Brian Dawkins three years ago. He was the rare player whose leadership abilities were tangible and sorely missed when removed. He was the rare player who continued to play well after he turned 35, when he finally changed teams.
He was rare, and that's why he someday should be headed to Canton.
"The Lord has blessed me to play in the NFL for 16 years. I would like to thank the Eagles & the Broncos 4 believing In me. I would like 2 thank all my teammates & Coaches that I have been blessed 2 go to battle with. Along with u, the fans 4 helping make my career 1 that i have enjoyed tremendously. In other words. I am announcing my retirement from the NFL," Dawkins wrote.
It makes sense that Dawkins went out speaking directly to the fans. In a town that is notoriously tough on athletes, Dawkins was universally beloved in Philadelphia. He connected. He was exceptionally smart, tough, durable and hard-hitting. He was a starter immediately, going to nine Pro Bowls and receiving four first-team All-Pro nods. His last two Pro Bowls came with the Denver Broncos, with whom he put together three surprisingly productive years.
For all that Dawkins accomplished after the ball was snapped, he will be best remembered for his leadership. His intensity was palpable, whether addressing his teammates or the media. He led by example, but he wasn't afraid to speak up when necessary. He always knew what to say, and that passion and love for the game carried over to his teammates.
The Eagles still haven't adequately replaced Dawkins because legends aren't easy to replace. He was one of a kind, and his singular talents shouldn't be overlooked in an era where Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu took the safety position to new heights.
Look for all three men to be teammates one day in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.