Perhaps it should have been taken as a sign of things to come.
Before the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots met in Super Bowl LII this past Sunday, two men who are arguably the greatest defensive backs in each franchise’s respective histories were among the finalists up for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2018.
Ty Law, the five-time Pro Bowl cornerback who spent 10 seasons with the Patriots, didn’t make the cut. Brian Dawkins, the nine-time Pro Bowl safety who spent 13 seasons with the Eagles, was voted in on Saturday. The next day, the Eagles defeated the Patriots for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.
Dawkins joins linebackers Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Robert Brazile; receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens; offensive lineman Jerry Kramer; and longtime executive Bobby Beathard.
A second-round draft pick out of Clemson in 1996, Dawkins earned the starting free safety spot in Philadelphia as a rookie. He proceeded to hold it down until 2009, when he signed with the Denver Broncos in free agency. Dawkins made the Pro Bowl in two of his final three seasons with Denver.
Nicknamed “Weapon X,” Dawkins was a six-time All-Pro pick, with five of those being first-team selections. He recorded 1,131 tackles in his career to go with 26 sacks, 36 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries and 37 interceptions. He is the only player in NFL history to have at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles.
During a game against the Houston Texans in 2002, Dawkins made history as the first NFL player to record a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery and a touchdown catch in the same game.
In 18 career playoff games, he had four interceptions, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Dawkins helped the Eagles make it to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to the Patriots.
Dawkins’ impact on the game, however, goes beyond the stats and resume. His leadership, toughness and outward passion made him a beloved figure whenever he played. At Clemson, the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually to honor a former Tigers player for their contributions on and off the field. In Philadelphia, his No. 20 has been retired.
If Dawkins and Ray Lewis are allowed to re-create the player-introduction routines they made popular in the NFL, then this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony is going to resemble a WWE live show.
Before he became a Super Bowl-winning executive with Miami in the 1970s and Washington in the 1980s, Beathard played quarterback and defensive back in college at Cal Poly. He made it to NFL training camps with Washington and San Diego but didn’t play a game in the league.
Other defensive backs who made it far along in the Hall of Fame voting process were 9-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch and 4-time Pro Bowl corner Everson Walls.