Legend (noun) “One that inspires legends or achieves legendary fame”
The word “legend” is thrown about all too often. In fact, that last sentence is too. Who, though, would dare argue that Brian Dawkins is not worthy of the title?
I talked episode 135 about why Brian Dawkins is so special to me as an Eagle and as a human being. The way he gave absolutely everything on every single down would have been enough for most players, but Dawk gave more than that. He gave leadership, inspiration, fight and a lot of heart. If the fate of the world had rested on Brian Dawkins’ shoulders each week during his career, he wouldn’t have been able to play any harder. That’s the greatest compliment I could ever offer him.
Lots of people have shared their thoughts on Brian’s greatness, most of them far more qualified than I am. Old team mates, coaches and members of the media have all heaped praise on our eternal #20 and there’s nothing I can add to that. What I would like to do, however, is share my experience from inside the Linc for those who were not privileged enough to be there.
Walking around central Philadelphia during the morning, I was greeted with shouts of “Go Birds!”, “BDawk!” and many others. But then, I was wearing a Brian Dawkins jersey and it was his day. When I arrived at the tailgate, the party was already in full swing. Eagles fans were out in force and the threatened rain was nowhere to be seen. There were a few Giants fans about, but they were very heavily outnumbered as you’d expect. Chuck and I were joined by Eagles Girl and the time flew by. After cheesesteaks and beers, it was time to head to the stadium.
As we entered the Linc, we were handed posters of Brian as Weapon X. The challenge was to keep them in perfect condition over the next few hours and Chuck did a great job with a little assistance from my jacket! We found our seats and the atmosphere really started to build. The Giants ran onto the field to a chorus of boos and then it was the turn of the Eagles.
The Offensive starters were announced one by one, before the screen flashed up images of Brian and Weapon X. I nudged Chuck and said, “he’s going to exit the tunnel”, scarcely able to believe that I could be so lucky to see it live. I’m not sure Chuck believed it either as all he could say was, “I hope so.” I had seen Brian “acting the fool” plenty of times on TV, but never at the Linc. We waited anxiously for the video on the huge screens to finish and then it was Brian’s moment. And mine. And every other Eagles fan.
It’s difficult to put that moment into words. Right there was my favorite Eagle, my hero, bounding onto the field at the Linc for the final time and the crowd went nuts, I mean NUTS. Every Eagles fan was standing, applauding, cheering, thanking Brian from the bottom of their hearts. As I looked around, a little embarrassed that I had a tear rolling down my cheek, I saw that I was far from alone. Even as I write these words I feel very emotional, such was the power of that moment.
We reached half-time and the players left the field. Just as we were about to discuss the first half, all of the lights in the stadium went out and the crowd roared. The video screens showed a tribute to Brian as various laser messages flashed across the field; “#20”, “Weapon X”, “determination”, “heart” and many more. Fireworks on the field erupted into the sky and then Merrill Reese introduced the man of the moment.
“HALLELUJAH!”, exclaimed Brian as the crowd pumped up the volume. He thanked a number of people, Jim Johnson’s name receiving the biggest cheer of course. Then came something even more memorable, even more emotional. Brian asked if the fans would do him a favor; could we all sing the Eagles Fight Song together one last time? While “Fly Eagles Fly” was being sung by 60,000+ Eagles fans, Brian pumped his fist in the air and soaked up all the energy. He was excited, he was pumped, he could have played the second half! He thanked us, but really it was us thanking him.
I was truly honored to have been at the Linc for this very special game. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I loved every second of it. After the game, we headed to a bar near the Linc and partied like it was 1999! After a late night cheesesteak, I arrived back at my hotel around 4am. Could I sleep? No way! If I was still on such a high, I can’t even imagine how Brian felt.
Oh and we beat the Giants!
Cheers from Philly and GO BIRDS!
Image courtesy of Steve Brown