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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia (CBS)—Every Eagles’ fan has met Brian Dawkins in person, it seems. They all have personal stories relating to meeting B-Dawk halfway across the country at some amusement park, leaning up against a wall waiting for his family. Or in line at a restaurant, and recognizing that wide, bright smile. Or leisurely walking through a local mall, and catching a glimpse of the genial star and his children walking by.
These stories all have the same ending, too.
Dawkins took the time out to speak to them. To show his gratitude for their gratitude of his Hall of Fame-level play in 13 years as a Philadelphia Eagle. They all seem to end with a welled-up Dawkins either gripping them up or giving them a man-hug.
Brian Dawkins touched lives. He personified everything Philadelphia sports fans want from the athletes they invest their time and money to see: A genuine guy who cares about winning, possessing a bridge-cable will power that never waned, nor ever afraid to push the limits, willing to “lose a limb” to win.
Dawkins took a merry-go-round tour on Saturday, first at the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex to find out his original team will be retiring his number, then threw out the first pitch of the Phillies-Cubs game Saturday night.
But Sunday afternoon, during a two-hour autograph session at BC Sports in the King of Prussia Mall, is what you sensed charged the high-energy B-Dawk more than platitudes he received from the Eagles or the honor of throwing out the first pitch of a Phillies’ game.
It’s why B-Dawk had a long, long, long line that snaked through the mall waiting for him. Because the beauty about Brian Dawkins is that he got it—what it’s all about.
“It’s about the fans and all the wonderful support they’ve given through the years here in Philadelphia,” said Dawkins, whose No. 20 will be retired on national TV, when the Eagles host the Super Bowl champion New York Giants on September 30. “I feel so blessed to have been drafted by the Eagles, to play for a great man like Jim Johnson, and to play for these fans.
“You know what they say about the fans here in Philly. They’re supposed to hard on you, but I felt like they embraced me from Day One. I think it’s because of the way I played. I liked contact. I know this is a city filled with hard-working people that when they get on you they’re going to get on you and you have to have a thick skin through that short period.”
Dawkins stressed he never put an act for the fans. Who always portrayed himself on and off the field as who he truly is.
“That’s what was most important to me, I wore my emotions on my sleeve every time I played, and each time I met someone who was an Eagles’ fan,” Dawkins said. “They saw the real me. It wasn’t an act when I came out of that tunnel on Sundays, that’s who I am. I’m a passionate man and the thing that I did for a living I did it that long and it just so happens people appreciate me for it. And I appreciate them.
“I was fortunate enough to play for a team, for coaches, with a great group of guys at a place where I could be myself, work hard at it and guys I played with the fans I played for could appreciate it. Everything I had and everything I did came from the heart.”
As the fans began approaching Dawkins, grown men in No. 20 themselves began welling up at times meeting their hero—a genuine guy who seemed to talk to every Eagles’ fan every Sunday.