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Dawkins delivers

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 5

Nobody should be surprised that, just as he did as a player, Brian Dawkins rose to the occasion at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.

Dawkins delivered a powerful, inspiring induction speech that frequently sent tears running down the faces of friends, family and fans in attendance.

Dawkins was part preacher, part motivational speaker and part counselor during his passionate 20-minute speech Saturday. He spoke of anger, of suicidal thoughts and of pushing through pain to achieve success.

In his unique way, Dawkins explained how a safety selected with the final pick in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft reached the Hall of Fame.

“This wasn’t supposed to be me,” Dawkins said. “This wasn’t supposed to happen to Brian Dawkins.”

The fact that he was a second-round draft choice was a surprise to those who thought he was too skinny and too small. It might have been a surprise to a teen-age Dawkins, who wasn’t certain he could even get into college. But he credited his high school defensive backs coach, Kenneth Black, for tutoring him and bringing others in to tutor him to help get his grades up.

Black was one of many people Dawkins cited for helping him during his career. Some were about football, such as the way in which the late Eagles coordinator Jim Johnson used Dawkins, but most of the compliments and gratitude were about life as much as they were about football.

Dawkins thanked former Eagles teammate Troy Vincent, who presented Dawkins at Saturday’s ceremony, for being a role model. He thanked former Eagles head coach Andy Reid because “You trusted me to lead.”

He thanked his parents for instilling in him grit, determination and a refusal to quit. Dawkins said his mother, who has survived several strokes and breast cancer, taught him to be a fighter. He thanked his father for showing him “what a man is supposed to be,” including how to treat his wife and how to be a provider for his family.

Dawkins thanked Emmitt Thomas, the Eagles’ defensive coordinator during his first three NFL seasons, for never giving up on him.

“Emmitt would not let me settle for average,” Dawkins said. “He would not let me settle for good. He saw greatness in me that I did not see.”

Dawkins said that Thomas kept pushing him to be better, and that “the player Jim Johnson got to do everything that he did is because of you and your love for me. Thank you, Uncle Emmitt.”

But his most lavish praise for Thomas was for directing him toward professional help for his depression. Dawkins said his depression was so bad that he actually planned how to commit suicide in a way that his wife would still collect the insurance money. But his wife, Connie, and Thomas, whom Dawkins described as a guardian angel, encouraged him to get the professional help he needed to overcome depression.

Fighting through pain and overcoming adversity was another theme of Dawkins speech. He spoke about pain pushing him to the next level, saying “I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things I went through.”

And then Dawkins, as he combined the roles of preacher, motivational speaker and counselor into one quivering voice, delivered an emotional message for those suffering through depression or going through hard times, pointing out that he’s come out better after battling through the pain.

“For those who are going through (something) right now, there is hope,” Dawkins said. “You do have hope. There is something on the other side of this. Don’t get caught up where you are! Don’t stay where you are! Keep moving! Keep pushing through!”

Continuing to sound as if he were delivering a sermon, Dawkins thanked all of the people who doubted him, saying “the haters became my elevators.” That’s a pretty catchy way to describe turning negativity into positive energy.

Dawkins spoke of having a chip on his shoulder, being angry, and even of losing control and having that anger explode into violence. But he spoke of how his faith in God enabled him to channel his energy into constructive avenues.

“I am a blessed man of God,” Dawkins said. “And the Lord has blessed me to do the things that I do.”

When Dawkins says “I did not do this by myself,” however, he is referring to the numerous people who have helped him in addition to his faith. From his teammates to his coaches to his family, including his “hall of fame wife,” Dawkins made certain to give credit to all who have helped him along his journey to the Hall of Fame.

During his Hall of Fame speech, Dawkins tried to pass along some of the wisdom others imparted to him: “When you start something, you finish it,” “Don’t allow yourself to settle,” and “Never give in.”

As Dawkins said as he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “Football was what I did. It is not who I am.”

Dawkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his excellence as a player. But his speech stood out during Saturday because it was more about life than football.

And the speech made it obvious that Dawkins has joined his father, Troy Vincent and Emmitt Thomas as the type of role model others should look to for guidance and inspiration.

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