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Heart and Soul

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 4

Brian Dawkins spoke exactly as he played. He was energetic, emotional and excellent.

Dawkins had said he wasn’t going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame alone, and he made sure he did not. Dawkins thanked a long list of people, but he did so in a heartfelt way that captivated the audience, both in Canton, Ohio, and watching at home on television.

“I did not do this by myself,” Dawkins said at the start of his speech.

Because he didn’t achieve induction into the Hall of Fame by himself, Dawkins said he was bringing everyone with him. With his induction, Dawkins said that Jacksonville, particularly the North side, now has a hall of famer. His Pop Warner team has a hall of famer. His high school has a hall of famer. Clemson has a hall of famer. And, of course, the Philadelphia Eagles have another hall of famer.

Dawkins, who played the first 13 of his 16-year NFL career with the Eagles, knows he wouldn’t have reached the Hall of Fame without the help of many people. He thanked his high school football and basketball coaches, his high school basketball coach, teachers, doctors, massage therapists, college teammates and his Eagles teammates.

“I had a healthy dose of fear of letting you down,” Dawkins said to his Eagles teammates. “That’s why I went so doggone hard. I never wanted to let you down. Anything that I could do for you, you know I would do for you.

“I gave everything I had, to the last drop, for you because I loved you so doggone much.”

Among the many individuals Dawkins thanked for molding him into a hall of famer were former teammate Troy Vincent, who presented him at his speech, for being a role model and giving him something to aspire to be. He thanked Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas for not only seeing greatness in Dawkins that he did not see in himself, but he also thanked Thomas for directing him toward places to get help for depression. Dawkins said that Thomas, whom he described as one of his guardian angels, “allowed me to be alive today.”

Dawkins’ battle with depression, which was chronicled in the week leading up to his Hall of Fame induction, most notably in an interview with NBCSports.com/Philadelphia’s Derrick Gunn, pushed him to the brink of desperation.

“I suffer from depression,” Dawkins said. “I went through it mightily my rookie year. I suffered through suicidal thoughts. And I wasn’t just suffering through suicidal thoughts, but I was actually planning the way I would kill myself so my wife would get the money.”

With encouragement and guidance from Thomas and Dawkins’ wife, Connie, he got professional help to deal with his depression. Dawkins believes that pushing through the pain of depression has made him a better player and person. Pain, Dawkins said, pushes him to the next level.

“I have grown by leaps and bounds because of the things I went through,” Dawkins said.

And, just as other encouraged him during his bouts with depression, Dawkins encouraged others to keep pushing through the pain, injecting them with hope that life will be better if they push through the pain.

Perhaps the most heartfelt moments in Dawkins’ inspirational speech were reserved for his family. He thanked his wife, presenting here with a gold scarf/veil and referring to her as his “hall of fame wife.” He thanked his parents, his 100-year-old grandmother, his brother and sister and his children.

A section of his speech was also reserved for the Eagles. He thanked owner Jeff Lurie, former head coach Andy Reid, former head coach Ray Rhodes and the late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. And, of course, he thanked Eagles fans, many of whom spent their “hard-earned money,” as Dawkins said, to be with him in Canton to enter the Hall of Fame.

“Thank you for loving me the way that I love you,” Dawkins said. “I love you back, and I thank you. Thank you for everything.”

Throughout his life’s journey, Dawkins says he has been accompanied by God. A man of deep faith, Dawkins thanked God for helping him throughout his life.

Dawkins says his Hall of Fame induction only completes a chapter. He says he’s ready for whatever God has for him in the next chapter of his life.

If his next chapter is half as successful as the chapter he just finished, Brian Dawkins is headed for more great achievements in his life, particularly if he brings the same energy, emotion and excellence to the next chapter as he did to his football career and Saturday’s Hall of Fame induction speech.

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