When you are considered one of the greatest to ever play the game. When you have two fans bases that admire and look up to you because of the things you did on the football field. When you are enshrined as a Pro Football Hall of Famer, you can use that platform in so many ways.
Brian Dawkins used his platform during his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night to help others who might be going through the same things he went through when he was a young man trying to deal with all the pressure, anger and the deep depression he suffered through.
“The Lord told me a long time ago that my pain is not just for me,” Dawkins said to NFL Network’s Steve Wyche after his formal enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “The pain that I am going through is not just for me. It is for other people because I am not the only one that has gone through the things that I have gone through.
“So, if I can go through some of the things that I have gone through, then I can encourage those that are going through it right now that there is hope on the other side.”
Dawkins told the story of how he has suffered from severe depression and contemplated suicide several times while he was a young player in Philadelphia. It got so bad he even tried to figure out ways in which he could kill himself so his wife could still get the life insurance money after he was gone.
But through his faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and with the help of his wife, Dawkins finally got the help and the counseling he so desperately needed. From there, he went on to become one of the greatest safeties the game has ever seen.
“There are so many people that are going through suicidal thoughts that look at Brian Dawkins and are saying ‘you are the biggest, strongest dude in the world. How are you going through those thoughts?’ He saved some lives tonight. He saved lives tonight by doing that,” Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network afterward.
Dawkins of course played at Clemson from 1992-’95 where he became an All-American. The second-round draft pick later became a five-time All-Pro, four times as a first-team selection, with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was a selected nine times to the Pro Bowl in his 16-year career. All three marks are the most by a former Tiger.
Hall of Fame running back, and NFL Network analyst, Terrell Davis said he was blown away with Dawkins’ speech.
“The passion that I felt from B-Dawk … I was mesmerized listening to these guys speak,” Davis said. “You talk about B-Dawk and his struggles. I did not know the man was going through suicidal thoughts and having thoughts to that and struggling to that degree.
“He also made the quote when he said his biggest fear was letting his teammates down. I can identify with that. I was like, ‘Wow! That was something that was my greatest fear was letting my teammates down.’”
But Dawkins never let anyone down in his 16-year career and on Saturday he did not let those who suffer from depression, like himself, down either.
“From a place of this magnitude then maybe it can help them get out of the slump they are in, the depression they are in, the deep hole they are in and seek the help that they need in order to allow their faith to continue to catch on,” Dawkins said. “Then they can achieve some great things that can bless their families for years to come.”
Dawkins said the thing that hit him the most Saturday night was seeing all the tears from his peers and from his elder statesmen as he was coming off the stage.
“The tears of joy. We were praying on the stage together,” an emotional Dawkins said. “Think about that. We were sitting there praying on the stage together. Some of the people I looked up to and watched play football on TV were sitting there crying and loving each other. That’s what I am talking about man. That is a family. That is a family. The Lord has blessed me so much to have that type of affect on people, but not me, but the spirit in me to affect people in that way.”