Brian Dawkins ‘lit up’ Canton as he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brian Dawkins ‘lit up’ Canton as he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Brian Dawkins ‘lit up’ Canton as he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Wow!

That’s the best way to describe Brian Dawkins’ speech Saturday as he was formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Using the same energy that made him one of the most popular Philadelphia Eagles ever, Dawkins lit up Canton, Ohio with one of the most emotional speeches ever issued at the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. From the moment he walked onto the stage doing his famous “Wolverine” entrance to when he left the podium, the crowd was energized by his energy, passion, his story and more importantly his message.

Dawkins became the first former Clemson player enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he let the Clemson fans back in South Carolina know it.

“Clemson,” he announced to the crowd in Canton. “You have a Hall of Famer, and you are a Hall of Famer.”

Former Clemson quarterback and defensive end, Patrick Sapp, who was a teammate of Dawkins in high school and at Clemson help present Dawkins, along with Dawkins former Eagles’ teammate Troy Vincent. The two played together at Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla., before coming to Clemson together and staring for the Tigers from 1992-’95.

“Pat. P-Sapp,” Dawkins said to Sapp in the crowd. “Brother Man, you were my rabbit I chased all through high school. Brother, you were that dude. I wanted much success for you. But, what I wanted, I wanted to come get you brother. I wanted to supplant you to be that dude.”

Dawkins became that dude at Clemson. By the end of his senior year, he became an All-American and later became a second-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles.

During his presentation for enshrinement for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sapp told a story about how driven his friend was to be the best. He told a story when the two roomed at Clemson and how the Clemson coaches made Dawkins mad when they said he was too small to play football.

“Brian had issue with a lot of coaches who thought he was small,” Sapp recalled. “So he literally would set his alarm every night for about 2:30 or 3 a.m., wake up and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti to try and gain weight.

“Just watching him dedicate himself in that way was a huge inspiration for me.”

Dawkins became a huge inspiration for so many in Philadelphia as he became one of the most beloved players in the franchises’ long history. Thousands of Eagles fans took over Canton and chants of BRIAN DAWKINS! filled up the stadium before the ceremony, before his speech and after his speech.

Dawkins played 16 years in the NFL between 1996 and 2011. He played with the Eagles from 1996-2008 and with the Denver Broncos from 2009-11. In those 16 years he was named to the Pro Bowl nine times, more than any other Clemson player.

The former Tiger was emotional throughout the evening, wearing his heart on his sleeve and giving his speech the same way he played the game. He thanked so many for helping him get to Canton, including his family. Brian Dawkins, Jr., who plays for Clemson and is a reserve defensive back for the Tigers, was also in attendance with head coach Dabo Swinney and athletic director Dan Radakovich.

“He played with no boundaries,” Sapp said of his friend. “He was somebody that put it all out there. Every game, every practice and in the community.”

Dawkins used his platform more than anything to tell his story and his relationship with God and his faith.

“As you look on my shirt. It says ‘Blessed by the Best.’ And throughout my life the Lord has blessed me with so many individual souls,” Dawkins said.

After explaining his story and his battle with depression and his struggles with contemplating suicide and his anger, Dawkins wrapped up his speech by giving thanks to the One who made it all possible.

“Thank you Heavenly Father for blessing me with the sense to understand that I did not do everything by myself, that You have guided me the whole way,” he said. “I have had wonderful people around me that You placed in perfect positions to reach me. That You orchestrated my life even though my plans were to do the opposite.

“You stayed faithful to me and You continued to push me and You continue to pull me towards the purpose. So, I thank you Heavenly Father and I can’t wait to see what You are going to do with me next.”

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