Frank Ward over at The Daily Philadelphian is our guest contributor this week. With Brian Dawkins returning to Philly for the first time since leaving after his 13 year career with the Eagles, fans will surely rise to their feet and cheer him on. Frank talks about the pain fans will feel on Sunday when they see him wearing another team’s colors.
Dawkins return painful for Eagles fans
By FRANK WARD
Eagles fans can’t watch Broncos games this year without being a little upset. It’s nothing personal.
Our hearts are crushed every time we see No. 20 make a tackle for you. He should still be flying around Lincoln Financial Field making plays and laying people on the ground with the ferocity that few safeties are truly known for in today’s NFL. We miss Weapon X.
This Sunday, Brian Dawkins will play at the Linc in South Philly one more time. Only, he won’t be in Eagles green.
My man crush left me last March through no fault of his own. Nine months later, the hurt has not gone away. Nor will it ever leave.
I can’t tell you the number of times Eagles fans have said, “Dawkins makes that play,” every Sunday afternoon this fall.
But it’s more than that. He set a tone, an emotional one at that. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense under Jim Johnson and Andy Reid in Philadelphia.
And yet the hurt I feel is not from the way he performed and gave his all each and every week. No, the pain and sense of loss comes from Dawkins the person on and off the field.
Dawkins understood Philly fans. He took the time to learn about us in a way not many do. He is the everyday man and being an NFL standout has not changed his personality.
In 33 years as a Philly sports fan I’ve never seen a city and an athlete connect the way Dawkins and the City of Brotherly Love did. Not Allen Iverson. Not Mike Schmidt. Not Reggie White. Not Ryan Howard nor Jimmy Rollins. Not Randall Cunningham, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, Keith Byers, Clyde Simmons … the list goes on. Nobody will ever fill that void. Nobody. Ever.
Weapon X was blue collar between the lines and never took a play off. That work ethic helped make the connection and was the basis of the mutual love affair.
The best safety in Eagles history had no problem showing his fans he loved them back. Whenever the Eagles scored, it was Dawkins who sprinted to the 50-yard line and led the crowd in singing Fly Eagles Fly. He choreographed the entire song.
And, when the Eagles D was introduced before games, Dawk was the last one out of the tunnel and always fed off of the crowd’s intense reaction when he crawled, rolled and sprinted out of the tunnel.
Now, on gamedays, the void is visible after every touchdown. For a split second the euphoria surrounding a DeSean Jackson score is interrupted when we look to the 50 and realize Dawk isn’t there. I still mimic Dawk’s motions as he sang the fight song. Only, he’s not there.
Sunday’s game will be emotional on both sides. Neither Dawkins nor the Eagles fans wanted it this way. We never saw the separation coming. Dawkins will not be booed, a rare feet for an athlete in an opposing jersey who plays in Philly.
But, that just goes to show what kind of person Dawk was — and is.
Denver, our loss is your gain. I have no doubt you are falling helmet over spikes for him the way we did.
Just give him the respect he deserves. Embrace him.
On Sunday, I’m taking my No. 20 Eagles jersey off of the hanger and wearing it proudly. Philly will never see another Brian Dawkins. Weapon X is a rare breed in today’s NFL.