Brian Dawkins will forever be remembered as one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, No. 20 was as famous for his hard hits as he was his pre-game speeches. That translated to his remarks from Canton, where he crawled out to roaring fanfare and left fans inspired by a reflection of his 16-year career.
For much of his address, however, Dawkins insisted that his leadership wasn’t the only thing that got him through a physical journey through the NFL — and through life in general.
Sporting a gold Hall of Fame jacket with the phrase “Blessed by the best” displayed on the interior, the longtime Eagles and Denver Broncos Pro Bowler was fresh off a week in which he opened up about depression and suicidal thoughts that haunted him early in his career. And he made it clear over the weekend that, in addition to friends and family like his wife, Connie, and former Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas, God played a part in his perseverance — a push through pain that made him one of his generation’s most feared players and, more importantly, kept him alive.
“I did not do this myself,” he said. “I did not.”
Dawkins repeatedly emphasized that “pain helps you develop those things that are going to take you to the next level of whatever it is the Lord has for you.” He shared how his Christian faith, his relationship with God, spawned a new perspective on anger issues he confronted as a youngster. He said his days of contemplating suicide ultimately “increased my faith exponentially” once he began to lean on God for help. And he pointed his final praises upward, thanking Jesus for his road to the Hall of Fame stage.
“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” he said. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for blessing me with the sense to understand that I did not do everything by myself … You have guided me the whole way, orchestrated my life … You stayed faithful to me, and I cannot wait to see what You’re going to do with me next.”
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