Take A Lesson From Denver Bronco Brian Dawkins
Written on November 28, 2009-Week 12 of the 2009 NFL Season
Brian Dawkins, known for his bone-crushing tackles and overall knack for the ball, is a seven-time Pro Bowl Safety who is in well on his way to number eight. He is often remembered as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, where he brought more victories (109 wins/183 games played) to the city of Philadelphia than any Eagle in its history, but is now with the Denver Broncos. Eagles fans, like Dan Leone (which will be discussed later on), now encompass a general disdain towards the front office and management for releasing the team's official heart and soul. The nucleus and core of that roster was ripped out with that one devastating move of neglecting to sign Dawkins (which was most likely done as a result of his age). To understand the profound impact he's had on this team for fans to feel this way, we need to look at Dawkins…both who he is and what he represents.
Dawkins has two personas. One is of him as the humble, religious, and righteous man during the week, who never curses and is never involved in any controversy or scandal off the field (a rarity for athletes these days-even Tiger Woods is facing public invasion of his private life). And on Sundays, he lives by that of Weapon-X, who represents his idol and favorite comic book character, Wolverine. He keeps figurines of this character in his locker, because he admires Wolverine’s emotion and his sentiment for incessant intensity. Brian marvels at (no pun intended) the Wolverine based upon “the fact that he never backs down from a battle...The fact that he's intense all the time. It’s something that invited [Dawkins] into that world”.
The first persona, Dawkins as a person, is genuine, hard-working, and righteous. He never gets in legal trouble. Instead, he is a humble man who will never use profanity and teaches his teammates life-long lessons, instructing them how to handle their finances and behave off the field. He always does the right thing and teaches those around him to act in the same mild-mannered, meek tone. To give testament to the kind of person he is I want to share with you a story about him.
Dan Leone was a Philadelphia Eagles employee, working part-time job as a gate chief at Lincoln Financial Field on game day, and lost his job over a Facebook post where he commented on the Eagles’ poor decision-making skills to not sign Dawkins from free agency. Dawkins felt it was his fault this guy lost his job and gave his two allotted tickets to Leone when Denver visits Philly during the 2009 season. "I thought it'd be a good gesture,'' Dawkins said, according to the Daily News. "Had I not ... signed with Denver, that guy would still have his job. I felt it would be a good thing, to reach out to that individual and just let him know how much I appreciate it.''
Did this athlete have to give his two tickets to some random guy, someone who he never even met before? Brian has a wife and two daughters who could have seen their loved one perform in what will be a special game for him: a return to his old house, where he will get what may very well be the biggest standing ovation for an opposing player ever. He certainly was not obliged to do such a good faith act. It was a gesture of good will…his appreciation for another. His true appreciation, not just for the hundreds of thousands of fans he has, but for one guy who respects him. Brian just showed you with this one act, that he is your ultimate fan-anybody who takes the time out to watch him play and comment on how great a competitor he is! Why I don’t necessarily want to call any players out, I would almost be certain that there are very few out there who would do the same for their fans. But that’s just who Dawkins is as a person. He acts out of principle and is truly an incredible person.
Moving on to the second persona, Dawkins as a player, a.k.a. Weapon-X, is a force to be reckoned with. He is as intense and brutal as the name sounds.
Entering this season, Dawkins compiled 898 tackles, 34 interceptions, 21 sacks, and 33 forced fumbles during his career, indicating his pure talent and ability. He is one of ten to join the 20/20 club. Dawkins, for years, has been known around the league as one of the best safeties in the league along with Pittsburgh Steelers Troy Polamalu, Baltimore Ravens Ed Reed, and Indianapolis Colts Bob Sanders. At 6’0” and 210 pounds, Dawkins plays on an elevated level, posting numbers that are respectable for that of a Hall of Famer. He’s the type of guy that the opposing team hates to face because of the threat he poses, but wishes they had him on their team. While he was always told he’d be too small to play football, his weight being on the lower echelon of football players, his training is so intense that his 210 pound frame delivers more force than some of the heaviest guys in the NFL. Dawkins, while never revealing his workout secrets, trains in accordance with building up his athletic prowess while not focusing on building muscular size. For someone not concentrated on packing on muscle mass, he sure has a lot of it. But it’s his smart training that allows him to keep up with the best of them, even at 36 years old. Dawkins, not known for his lightning speed in his latter years, counteracts his faults to compile such Hall-Of-Fame numbers with heavy duty training and the brilliance to always be in the right position to get better angles on the ball. As Rodney Harrison said, experience equates to speed, because experience allows you to anticipate where everyone is going to go and you can get to where you need to be quicker as a result. Dawkins is an experienced veteran alright, playing 14 years in the league.
While some critics may say he’s lost a step, his numbers this year, in terms of tackles, are even better than his previous 7 pro-bowl years. Dawkins is still that animal who has fuel left in the tank and even chased down Sam Hurd from across the entire field in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter this year in Week 4 to save a touchdown that would have clearly tied the game. While the younger guys like D.J. Williams and Andre Goodman ran out of steam trying to chase the young, quick Hurd, Dawkins turned on the jets to tackle him. This set up a Broncos defensive stand to propel the Broncos to an unbeaten 4-0. All because of Dawkins.
This play (3:22 in the video above) is the epitome of what Dawkins represents on the field, but it’s what he represents as a person, that is even more special. Dawkins brought more than physical play to the locker room he enters, whether it’s in Philadelphia or Denver. His on-field play is exceptional, but his work outside of the Sunday games is what is truly special. Dawkins helps so many young guys better in the league, by leading the way. Instead of feeding them a fish, he teaches them how to fish. He teaches them how to make it in this league and how to make more out of themselves. He brings with him intangibles that no stat sheet could calculate or adequately measure, noting how poor the Eagles’ decision truly was. He filtrated throughout that Philadelphia locker room an unparalleled emotion that carried with it intense practices for every member of the team along with motivational speeches to fire up his teammates. Dawkins is a legend of the gridiron. When the Eagles let him go as an effort to go with a younger look in Demps, they sacrificed their entire defensive unit in terms of performance play, but also their composure, attitude, respect for one another, intensity, and internal motivation which all translates to being properly prepared for Sunday. Dawkins was the identifiable reason for all of that and he was the one responsible for holding that defense together, and as a result, the entire team. Last year, while facing a difficult first half, it was Dawkins who propelled that team into the playoffs. After the Eagles entered a losing skid and faced heavy criticism for their underperforming 5-5-1 record, Dawkins held a team meeting where he talked to and inspired his teammates to play passionate, unselfish ball. His teammates responded with 4 out of 5 victories and an eventual playoff berth. Dawkins led this young Wild-Card team yet again through a big win in Minnesota against a hungry Vikings team and against the returning Super Bowl Champs in the New York Giants to get to the NFC Championship. Although Dawkins has never reached his ultimate goal of capturing a championship, he is still hungry and will not quit until that ring is on his finger.
Dawkins has recently become a member of the Broncos, where he seeks his first championship. The colors on his jersey changed, but his attitude, professionalism, leadership, and level of play are same old, same old. The Denver Broncos were noted as one of the worst defenses in the league last year. This year, the Broncos’ defense can be regarded as one of the best- as was shown in their 6-0 initial run where they only let up 10 points in the second half throughout those 6 games. And when the times got rough and the Broncos went into a skid, largely due in part to Dawkins’ neck injury, it was Dawkins who once again delivered the Al Pacino-Any Given Sunday-locker room-like speech. As a player-leader that encompassed a coach-like feel to it, he held a team meeting at the 6-4 record mark, inspiring this young crew to play ball like they did during the first 6 weeks. Again, his teammates responded with an incredible rebound victory against the Giants to go 7-4 and take control of the wild card standings. The Broncos ran the table against the Giants, allowing two scores on defense: field goals. If Kyle Orton and their offense were more efficient in the red zone, it would have been a 40 point differential, but with 4 field goals (3 of them within 32 yards), it was a score of 26-6.
Dawkins is the reason this team plays as good as they do when they’re hot. It’s the intensity they bring to every practice, weight room session, and ultimately, the game, that propels them to be dominant. I’d just like to shed light on the kind of intensity he brings. While Josh McDaniels and Mike Nolan have done a heck of a job with that team in terms of coaching, Dawkins is the leader that the players can actually relate to. His pregame speeches are testament to the intensity he brings and his teammates respond to it wholeheartedly. They get fired up off of his lead, whereby he leads by example, both on and off the field. He brings a certain unparalleled level of intensity to the game that is looked up to by his peers. He teaches them the intricacies of the game to make them better as athletes and teaches them about his life experiences to make them better people in the world. He simply makes everyone around him be better, not because of their fear that he'll get on their backs for acting in defiance, but because of their own rubbed-off self-righteousness to give it their all "on every 'doggone' play". Dawkins, often revered for his work ethic, has been recognized as the most diligent man in the NFL. Anyone associated with Dawkins knows that he works out harder, and with more intensity than anyone else in the league. Sheldon Brown said Dawkins was the most dominant defensive player he’s ever played with in all his 15 years of football, and that now he’s gone, “they’re missing a little heartbeat”. Teammate and all-star corner, Champ Bailey, noted that Dawkins was the greatest addition the Broncos could have ever asked for. That is the impact this one player has on the entire team. He makes his teammates want more out of themselves. His passion for the game is unparalleled. It was apparent in Philadelphia and now the city of Denver is experiencing it first-hand.
I would suggest to you that Brian Dawkins has more passion than anyone in the history of the game. He puts in more emotion on the football field than anyone. His final transformation from person to Wolverine takes place in the tunnel and his pre-game entrance is testament to how much passion he has for what he does. As head coach Andy Reid said, he maintains that pace and keeps that intensity for all 60 minutes, staying “on fire the whole game”. Even when he isn’t on the field delivering play-making hits and turnovers, you can see him on the sidelines yelling at his teammates to “turn it up”.
Brian Dawkins epitomizes the Wolverine’s attitude of never backing down from a battle. He’ll always face confrontation. He’ll always exit his comfort zone and lay it all out there knowing that he could get hurt from the punishment he tries to deliver with every bone-jarring hit. He is intense all the time no matter what he does…from the pregame warm-up to the final tick of that clock…from early Monday morning to late Sunday night. Brian Dawkins, like the Wolverine, never backs down from a battle. He has entered that world of giving everything he’s got, acting in principle, to give it his absolute all on “every ‘doggone’ play” of the game we call life. He has pride in how he acts as a person and that’s the ultimate pride to have- more than the pride of winning a game could ever signify.
Take a page or two out of Dawkins’ playbook. Be intense, be passionate about what you do, be true to yourself, be thankful for what you have in life, treat others with the respect you think you would deserve, and make sure to always stay humble. Be the best person you can be and try to inspire those around you. Teach those around you how to better themselves. Teach those around you how to behave responsibly and how to be the best at what they do. Overall, give everything you’ve got “on every ‘doggone’ play”.
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