It’s going to be a big Sunday for NFL football at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles will host the New York Giants in what should be a huge NFC East contest.
In addition, the Eagles will retire the No. 20 jersey of longtime safety Brian Dawkins in a special halftime ceremony. Dawkins is one of the franchise’s all-time great players and a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the eyes many NFL experts.
He played 13 years at free safety for the Eagles (1996–2008) before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos (2009–2011). He went to nine career Pro Bowls, played on five NFC championship teams and one Super Bowl team with the Eagles.
Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, the Eagles’ current starting safeties, are well aware of Dawkins’ exploits at the position. Allen and Coleman know about his legacy, too.
“It’s going to be huge,” Allen said. “That stadium is going to erupt. He’s Mr. Philadelphia. He’s a good guy from the time I met him. He deserves everything he gets.”
Dawkins, like Allen, hails from the state of Florida. He was a great football player at Raines High School in Jacksonville. He was a three-year starter at Clemson University. The Eagles selected him in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft. Allen, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, played for the University of South Florida. In 2010, he was selected in the second round and is in his third season with the Eagles. Dawkins showed a lot of people that you don’t have to be a first round in order to be successful in the NFL.
“He’s a hard worker and played even harder,” Allen said. “He’s the man. What else can you say? The thing I heard is he played 100 miles an hour. If you make a mistake and you’re playing 100 miles an hour that makes up for a lot of stuff.”
Coleman is certainly a blue-collar player who plays the game with a lot of aggressiveness. He knows that Dawkins covered a lot of ground at his position. He came up and made tackles on running plays and prevented a lot of big plays in the secondary with his pass coverage.
“He’s one of the best,” said Coleman, former Ohio State standout in his third season with the Eagles. “He was one of my mentors growing up of just watching him play. The thing that really sticks out to me is the passion that he played the game with. He made big play after big play when his team needed it.
“I did a little highlight reel of him. It’s amazing how many times he came up clutch for the team. There’s a reason why he is who he is. There’s a reason why he’s done what he’s done and why his number is being retired this week.”
NOTE: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick also has vivid memories of Dawkins from Vick’s playing days with the Atlanta Falcons. Vick played against Dawkins in the playoffs, most notably the 2004 NFC championship game when the Eagles defeated the Falcons 27-10 to advance to the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
“Brian Dawkins was a great player,” Vick said. “I think the hardest hit I ever took was from Brian Dawkins. He was an outstanding leader, a competitor and an ambassador for the NFL.”
Kayla Michele Jackson, junior champion golfer, recently hosted a free introduction to golf clinic for local kids at the Germantown Boys & Girls Club, 25 W. Penn St. Jackson, 16, went over the fundamentals of golf with the youngsters at the event. The clinic was sponsored by the Youth Athletic League of Philadelphia, founded by Rodney S. Burrell, in association with Perfect Smiles Comprehensive Dentistry.
Offensive tackle Tra Thomas retires as an Eagle
After being drafted out of Florida State with the 11th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1998, Tra Thomas went on to become one of the most accomplished left tackles in team history as he earned three Pro Bowl berths and one All Pro selection in 11 seasons with the team. He also was selected as the starting left tackle on the Eagles 75th anniversary team in a vote by the fans. Thomas has retired as a Philadelphia Eagle.
During his years with the Eagles, Thomas helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way for five 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Duce Staley (1998–99, 2002) and Brian Westbrook (2006–07), including a 2007 All Pro campaign by Westbrook in which he set a team record and led the league with 2,104 total yards from scrimmage. In addition, Thomas spent the majority of his career protecting the blindside of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who went to five Pro Bowls and set every major club passing record playing with Thomas as his left tackle.
Thomas finished his career with the Eagles in 2008 ranked second in club annals in games played by an offensive lineman (166) and fourth overall, missing only eight games due to injury during that time span. In fact, he and former tackle Jon Runyan started 134 games together, the most by a tackle tandem in franchise history. In addition, Thomas started 17 career playoff games with the Eagles, including five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. Only Brian Dawkins made more playoff starts with the team (18).
Thomas, 37, played eight games (three starts) for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009, finishing his career with 174 games played and 168 starts. The Deland, Florida, native currently resides in South Jersey with his wife, Rose, and his three sons. Thomas is also the founder and owner of an athletic training facility in Medford, N.J., called 7 Deuce Sports (www.7DeuceSports.com).
“Tra Thomas is one of the best offensive linemen to ever put on an Eagles uniform,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “He was an anchor at the left tackle position for many years and played such an integral role in our success, though he probably never got all the credit he deserved. Besides being such a great player, Tra is an even better person and someone I’ve always had a great relationship with. I’m proud of what he has done with his career after football as he has remained very successful while keeping his home in this area. We are very happy that he is retiring as an Eagle.”
Michaela Peterson wins 2012 Arthur Ashe Essay & Art Contest
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced that Michaela Peterson of Philadelphia, is one of 14 winners of the 14th annual USTA/NJTL Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest in the girls 11–12 essay category. Peterson, along with the other winners, ranging in ages from 10 to 18, was selected from over 1,100 essays submitted earlier this summer. Each winner will receive a New York City travel package from August 24 to 26.
Peterson, daughter of David Peterson and Diana Moro, has been involved in the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education NJTL Chapter for three summers and started tennis as an eight-year-old. She will receive a round-trip coach airfare to New York City for themselves and a parent/legal guardian. The trip also includes two nights at the Grand Hyatt 42nd Street, and President’s box tickets to the 2012 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day presented by Hess on August 25 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The weekend will wrap up with an awards luncheon on August 26, hosted by former New York City mayor and USTA board member David Dinkins, where the winners will receive an honorary plaque.
To enter the contest, children were asked to write an essay of 350 words or less, responding to a specific question about Arthur Ashe and his great accomplishments. This year’s question: “If Arthur Ashe were alive today, what do you think would give him hope?” A USTA sub-committee selected the winning essays based on their knowledge of Arthur Ashe, message clarity and writing style.
DeMeco Ryans will take on a lot of responsibility immediately with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker from the Houston Texas, was acquired by the Eagles this week in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in 2012. The Eagles and Texans also swapped third round picks this year. The Eagles now have the 89th selection overall, while the Texans have the Eagles’ 77th choice overall.
Ryans will be expected to make a big impact as the team’s new middle linebacker. Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, feels Ryans brings a lot to the table.
“We were able to bring DeMeco into a good situation with his playing style and obviously he will be a great asset to the Philadelphia Eagles defense,” Reid said. “He’ll be playing middle linebacker for us. He’s coming from a 3-4 defense that had been a 4-3 in years past, and we consider him one of the top 4-3 middle linebackers in the National Football League. He’s got a nice track record to show that. We’re excited to have him join our young linebacking corps and bring some senior leadership in there and experience.”
Ryans was originally a second round pick of the Texans in 2006. He has played and started in 86 games, earning Pro Bowl honors following the 2007 and 2009 seasons and was an Associated Press All-Pro selection in 2007. Ryans, 27, leaves Houston as the team’s all-time leader with 637 tackles while also contributing eight sacks, six forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and two interceptions in his six-year career. The Eagles will need him to make a lot of plays in the middle of the field.
“I’m happy being back in a 4-3 defense,” Ryan said. “That’s the defense I’ve been playing since high school. I have been in the middle of that defense for a while in high school and in college. It’s back to what I do naturally. I’m a natural middle linebacker, and this is what suits my ability.
“I can sense that everyone has been looking for that middle linebacker. I’m happy to be the guy that they chose to step in and be the middle linebacker of this defense. Like I said, it’s a perfect fit for me, and it’s what I like to do. I’m just eager to get started.”
Ryans, a 6-foot-1, 247-pounder, was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 after leading the team in tackles (156) and adding 3.5 sacks and an interception. He went on to start all 16 games and compiled over 100 tackles in each of the next three seasons. In 2007, he garnered All Pro, Pro Bowl and team MVP honors. In 2009, he earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl and was voted as a team captain in 2010.
But that year he suffered a rupture of the Achilles tendon after six games. He did come back in 2011 to start all 16 games. He helped contribute to a Texans defense that ranked among the league leaders in several categories including points per game (17.4 –4th), yards per game (285.7 –2nd), passing yards (189.7—3rd), rushing yards per game (96.0—4th) and sacks (44-6th). Ryans gradually raised his level of play following the injury.
“I was slow,” Ryans said. “It slowed me down a little bit at the beginning of the season. As the season went on, it continued to get better. Towards the end of the season, I was moving around, feeling like myself again.”
Ryans, a native of Bessemer, Ala., played his college football at Alabama, where he was a first-team All-American in 2005. He was a teammate of Eagles offensive guard Evan Mathis with the Crimson Tide. In addition to his play on the field, Ryans has been noted for his community work. He has his own foundation. Reid feels Ryans’ leadership and community efforts are similar to former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.
“It’s funny you say that because Rick Smith, the Texans general manager, actually said that,” Reid said. “That’s the type of person that you’re getting. Obviously, they are two different type of individuals but with some of the leadership and character that you’re getting on and off the field, I think they are the same.”
On Sept. 30, during halftime of a nationally televised NBC “Sunday Night Football” game against NFC East rivals, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles will honor nine-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, whose No. 20 jersey will be retired that day. Kick-off is 8:20 p.m.
Back in April, Dawkins, who last played for the Denver Broncos, signed a one-day ceremonial contract in April to officially retire a member of the Eagles, and said at a press conference at the NovaCare Complex, “The Philadelphia Eagles — they’ve been in existence for a long time and a lot of people have worn that number throughout that time. To know that now, because of the way the Lord blessed me to play this game, nobody will ever wear it again. That’s an honor, what an honor.”
Dawkins also paid tribute to the late Jim Johnson, formerly the revered defensive coach of the Eagles. “He saw something in me and began to use me in a different way than a lot of safeties were being used at that time. He believed in me,” Dawkins said. “The thing that I’ve always carried and always been as a player is a person who didn’t want to disappoint his coaches and gentlemen. I didn’t want to disappoint y’all.
“Why did I play with so much emotion? Why did I do all of that? Because I loved to do what I do and loved playing with my teammates. I loved playing with them. In Jim, I found that individual that believed in me to use me. When the game was on the line, the reason that I made so many big plays in crunch time is because Jim continued to call my number in crunch time. He knew I would do whatever it took and I would give up my body parts if I had to just to make sure his blitzes went on. I can thank him for that.”
After 16 bone-crushing seasons in the NFL, Dawkins, 38, no longer puts on the pads, but he is staying close to the game that he loves as an NFL analyst for ESPN. According to the network, he will appear on studio programs throughout the year such as “SportsCenter,” “NFL Live,” “Audibles” and NFL32.”
“I am so blessed and excited to say that I’ll now be working at a place that I’ve watched for as long as I can remember,” Dawkins said. “All the things that led me to have a pretty successful NFL career, I plan on bringing to this next phase of my life. New challenges!”
For now however, Eagles fans are looking forward to honoring their beloved safety whose alter-ego, “The Wolverine,” would order his teammates to “act a fool” during his pre-game rituals, speak “in tongues” during the games, play with such passion and hit with such force that he would almost knock himself out. He epitomized pro football in Philly. Dawkins, the eighth player in franchise history to have his jersey retired, will address those devoted fans during a halftime ceremony at Sunday’s primetime showdown against the Giants.
“Brian Dawkins is one of my all-time favorite players and one of the best to ever put on an Eagles uniform,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. “On the field, in many ways, Brian re-invented the safety position. He had the speed and athleticism to line up against the game’s best receivers, and was equally effective in the run game. His love for the game was infectious and he poured his entire heart and soul into everything he was doing from the moment he entered the stadium until he left. Everyone one who ever watched Brian play saw that and it was impossible not to love that about him. He was one of the best leaders ever to play here.
“Off the field, it is no secret that Brian was a fan favorite. But as much as the fans loved him, I can tell you that he loved them back with equal intensity. His transformation from a mild-mannered, humble man during the week to an energized, ferocious spark plug on game days was evidence of that. We have been working with Brian for a few weeks and look forward to honoring him in front of our fans as one of the greatest Eagles ever when we play the Giants on Sept. 30.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brian Dawkins says his head told him to retire, not his neck.
The veteran safety called Denver Broncos coach John Fox on Monday morning to tell him that after plenty of prayer and reflection, he'd decided that 16 seasons in the NFL was enough.
Then, Dawkins announced his retirement on Twitter, where he quickly began trending as fans worldwide expressed their admiration for the mild-mannered family man who transformed himself into a ferocious football player on Sundays.
Well-known by his alter-ego "Wolverine," and for his passionate, energetic play for 13 years in Philadelphia and three in Denver, Dawkins was one of the greatest to ever play his position, and nobody played safety in the NFL longer than he did.
Dawkins, 38, said he felt he had another year left in him after recovering from a serious neck injury that sidelined him for the stretch run and playoffs last season. But he instead fulfilled one final wish from his NFL bucket list: walking away from the game he loves before being betrayed by a battered body or one too many trips around the sun.
"It's probably going to sound crazy, but you know the fact that I could play another year gave me a lot of peace to say that this is it," Dawkins said.
Broncos boss John Elway said he wanted Dawkins to play in 2012 but never pressured him to return.
"It's always tough to take that final step," Elway said. "He'll be missed. He did so many tremendous things for the Broncos, not only on the field, but his leadership off the field was something that we'll always be grateful for."
Dawkins said the offseason additions of quarterback Peyton Manning and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio forced him to pray a little longer on his future.
He insisted his neck didn't enter the equation, though. He said the nerve had regenerated and he was fine.
"My body feels good. It really does. My neck, that nerve area is cool, nothing's wrong with it," he said. "My strength is back where it was and my knees, things don't ache like they do during the season when I'm walking up and down the steps."
Dawkins said he felt great peace over his decision.
Dawkins said he wasn't sure whether he'd sign a one-day deal with his old team to ceremoniously retire from the team that drafted him in the second round out of Clemson in 1996, but one thing's for sure: he's staying in Denver, where he hopes to help coach high school football in the fall.
"I'll raise my kids here," he said. "This is a beautiful spot."
He also has a soft spot in his heart for Philly, where he plans to meet with the media on Saturday.
For 13 years, he was the heart and soul of the Eagles' defense.
"The NFL will miss a player as talented, ferocious, and determined as Brian Dawkins," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He was one of the most dedicated and hardest working players I have ever coached. Whether it was on the practice field, the film room or the weight room, Brian always put in the extra hours it took to become the star player that he was. And he transferred all of that and more onto the field on Sundays."
Dawkins finished his career in Philadelphia in 2008 as the franchise's leader in games played (183) and interceptions (34) while spearheading a defense that made the Eagles perennial championship contenders.
"Brian Dawkins is one of my all-time favorite players and one of the best to ever put on an Eagles uniform," team owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "On the field, in many ways, Brian re-invented the safety position. He had the speed and athleticism to line up against the game's best receivers, and was equally effective in the run game. His love for the game was infectious and he poured his entire heart and soul into everything he was doing from the moment he entered the stadium until he left.
"Everyone who ever watched Brian play saw that and it was impossible not to love that about him."
The Eagles announced they would honor Dawkins at their Sept. 30 game against the New York Giants, and the Broncos have plans to do the same at a later date.
Longevity isn't normally associated with the position where the hardest hits are both received and delivered — the only other safeties to log 16 seasons in the pros were Hall of Famer Paul Krause and Eugene Robinson.
Dawkins was named to several All-Pro teams and the NFL's All-Decade team of the 2000s and he made nine Pro Bowls, including last season as an alternate. Dawkins finished his career with 17 fumble recoveries, 26 sacks, 37 interceptions, 42 forced fumbles and 98 pass breakups. His 42 forced fumbles are the most ever by a defensive back in the NFL.
"Brian Dawkins is one of the best to ever play the game, a future Hall of Famer who changed the way his position is played," Fox said. "In many ways, he helped my job as a coach with his great leadership and preparation. He brought so much to the table and was such an enormous asset to our football team."
As a member of the NFLPA executive committee, Dawkins pushed for new league rules that limited full contact during camp and also in the regular season. He credited those changes in the 10-year labor pact reached last summer with keeping him fresh at the beginning of what turned out to be his final season, which he played a year after laboring through sprains to both knees.
What he was really fighting for, he said, was the next generation of players who will one day walk away from the game in better shape than he could.
It was one last piece of his long legacy.
"I just hope that people will remember me as someone that went out and gave everything that he could every week," Dawkins said. "Not just the weekend or the day of the game, but every week ... and that my teammates could count on me to be there all of the time. Not some of the times, not most of the times."
One tweet in response to Dawkins' retirement announcement came from Elway himself, who wrote, "Congratulations on a Hall of Fame career, Dawk!!!"
He'll be eligible for enshrinement in 2017.
"If that's something that happens, that will be a blessing," Dawkins said. "I never entered into the NFL saying that, you know, I'm going to be a Hall of Famer. I know some guys do that; I just wasn't one of them. I mean, that wasn't my mindset. I did not enter the league saying I want to play 16 years. None of these things were in my mind." -- (AP)