On Friday Feb. 20, Philadelphia Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins visited West Chester University to discuss leadership, responsibility and, of course, football.The event was held in the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Tickets cost two dollars, though with the purchase students were entered into a series of raffles. Prizes included a V.I.P. meet and greet with the man himself, as well as autographed pictures, footballs and a jersey.
Dawkins made his Eagles debut in 1996 and has been a defensive fixture, as well as a fan favorite since that time. He has been to seven Pro Bowls, including his selection to last year’s team.
“I will not allow anybody else’s opinion to define me,” he said after describing the ups and downs that he’s endured throughout his career.
After he was drafted out of Clemson by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Dawkins was criticized for being “too small” to play safety in the NFL. Going in to this past season he was called “too old and too slow” to keep pace in a league that some thought had passed him by. He went out and proved that he was still a viable defensive threat and was named as one of the league’s best at the Pro Bowl.
Dawkins went on to say that he used other’s doubts as “motivation” and “fuel.”
He spoke candidly about his shortcomings as a student in high school, due to the poor choices that he made.
“I have no idea how I passed ninth grade,” he said, later mentioning he maintained a 1.6 GPA during that year.
This cost him his childhood dream of attending the University of Florida and playing for the Gators, a team that he idolized growing up in Jacksonville, Fla. Due to his low academic marks, the school couldn’t guarantee him a scholarship.
“That cut me deep,” Dawkins stated. He went on to say that it was “because of my selfishness and not doing what I was supposed to do in ninth grade” that he wound up in the position that he was.
Dawkins credited being rejected by the University of Florida, as well as a talk he had with his father for turning his life around.
He spoke of the disappointment he saw in his father’s eyes, saying “I never want to see that look again.” He resolved to climb out of the academic hole that he had dug for himself and did so by making the honor roll consistently throughout his senior year before being accepted by Clemson University. His off-the-field hard work continued into college and he managed to graduate in three and a half years.
Dawkins also credits the talk that he had with his father for his hard work on the field saying that he didn’t want to see “that look” on the faces of his coaches or teammates.
“Everything has been put in its place for me to be here,” said Dawkins who is a deeply religious man.
He told the crowd that when he was younger it was his dream to play basketball, going so far as to say that “I could not stand football.” Eventually he came around, mostly due to the fact that his brother was a star running back and his father was a coach.
Dawkins endured a series of position changes throughout his early career, playing all over the field including center and an injury-plagued stint as a running back, before finally discovering his calling as a safety.
Despite the fact that he hated his time at center, Dawkins never stopped working at it and credits the position for making him “like contact.”
Even though he hated the position and questioned the coaches internally, he always did what they asked him to do, even if it meant staying at a position that he knew wasn’t a right fit for him.
His positive attitude and nearly unparalleled work ethic have led to Dawkins being one of the most popular athletes in Philadelphia today, and the sea of Dawkins jerseys in Asplundh Hall would attest to that fact.
Following Dawkins’ speech, the audience was given the opportunity to ask him some questions of their own. Topics ranged from teammate Donovan McNabb’s post NFC Championship game comments regarding the defense to his future in Philadelphia and even to his religious views. Dawkins answered all of the questions he was asked, without ducking even the most sensitive of subjects.
“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure we’re back in that Super Bowl and make sure we win that thing,” Dawkins said, garnering cheers from the partisan crowd.
Dawkins is currently a free agent, though recent reports have him resigning with the Eagles.
He addressed that topic as well saying: “Hopefully I’ll be here” and “We’ll see if we can’t get something done here in the next week or so.”
He also spoke at length about his status as a team leader, saying that he simply stepped up and filled a void left by departing veterans such as Troy Vincent and Irvin Fryer.
“I’m happy I did,” he said.
Dawkins also said that he hoped that others would learn from the mistakes and poor choices that he had made. He closed the night off with a simple “I love you, man,” which brought the crowd to its feet.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu