By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) —He’s known as “5” and it’s a number that won’t be worn again by another Eagle. It will be his, always his, Donovan McNabb’s number. His former teammates were there for him at the NovaCare Complex on Monday, like he was there for them throughout his career.
Donovan McNabb made it official today by retiring as an Eagle—and Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie made it official saying the team will retire McNabb’s No. 5 when the Birds host Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs on the nationally televised September 19 game.
“A special day, a special day,” said McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowler who holds almost every significant passing record in Eagles’ history. He took the podium holding his emotions in check, after heart-rending testimonies by Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned with the likes of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald, Brian Dawkins, and all of the others who paved the way for me and my former and current teammates. It’s truly an honor to be inducted in the ring of honor.”
KYW Newsradio’s Ed Benkin interviews Donovan McNabb (runs 2:46)…
“It’s an honor to be here. It’ s been a long time, ‘5.’ We’ve shared a lot of great memories. A lot of on the field memories, a lot of off the field memories. One of the best players to ever play the game,” Westbrook said. “Jordan had Pippen, I had Donovan McNabb.”
“As a young man with dreams in becoming a professional athlete, never would I have thought this day would come true, watching the likes of Michael Jordan and Walter Payton flourish in their given sports. In order to become a champion, and in order to go down as one of the best to ever do it, it would take more than expected. I would never allow myself, or allow anyone, to tell me what I could and could not accomplish. Fortunately, I was blessed with two of the greatest parents in the world, who cared, who motivated me, who drove me, not only to become a great athlete, but a great role model. What you do on the field or on the court does not make you a great role model. It’s the decisions that you make away from your place of business and when no one is looking.”
McNabb thanked his wife, Roxy, and four children. He went on to thank them for enduring him during the few trying years at the end of his career. He also thanked his teammates, “I appreciate everything, everything about each and every one of you.”
McNabb thanked his offensive linemen, his receivers, his running backs and fullbacks.
And he made sure to thank Andy Reid.
“Last but not least, I want to thank Big Red, who probably is in camp right now, for taking the chance and sticking with me in 1999, 11 great years,” McNabb said. “We’ll be forever linked together, but that’s one of the things I can honestly say I love it. We made history big fella. Again, to everyone that’s here, to everyone that’s watching, to all the fans, I truly love you. I gave everything I had. When I stepped out on that field, I never complained. When you seen ‘5’, you knew ‘5’ was going to give you what he got.”
“It was a pleasure going to war with you,” Brian Dawkins said to McNabb. If McNabb was the offensive leader of the team during the most successful era in Eagles history, Dawkins was the leader on defense. “People don’t understand what kind of leader ‘5’ was. I knew my quarterback was going to give 100 percent every time he was out there.”
McNabb implored the current Eagles players to give everything they have, to play with passion and heart, to trust the player beside them.
And he remembered former Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, “One thing I learned from a historic man, who’s no longer with us,” McNabb said, again buckling in his emotion, “never take anything for granted. Because when it’s all said and done and you unlace your shoes, put that helmet behind you, you don’t ever want to regret anything. That man was Jim Johnson. One of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. So love your brother, love the man next to you. If you want to be great, make the man next to you greater.”
McNabb’s speech was deep, visceral, gut wrenching and passionate. He’ll be honored at halftime of the Chiefs Sept. 19 game, no doubt maybe even pulling Big Red away from his current players to spend a minute with the one player who helped make him one of the most successful coaches in Eagles’ history.