After 16 seasons in the NFL, three-year Denver Broncos safety Brian Dawkins announced his retirement from the league on Monday via Twitter.
Before his time with the Broncos, Dawkins played safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and established himself as the emotional leader and anchor to the team's defense. He grew to become a fan favorite not only for his hard-hitting physicality but also his motivational words, both on and off the field.
The Lord has blessed me to play in the NFL for 16 years, Dawkins wrote on Twitter. I would like to thank the Eagles & the Broncos for believing in me. I would like 2 thank all my teammates & coaches that I have been blessed 2 go to battle with. Along with u, the fans, 4 helping make my career 1 that I have enjoyed tremendously. In other words, I am announcing my retirement from the NFL.
The Eagles and Dawkins, who became an unrestricted free agent when his contract with the Broncos expired in March, have been in contact for the last few weeks as he neared his announcement, and, according to CSNPhilly.com Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank, the 38-year-old has told them that he will retire with them at a game to be announced this year. Philly.com reports that his No. 20 jersey will be retired.
Selected from Clemson in the second round of the 1996 draft by the Eagles, Dawkins played 13 seasons with them and went to the Super Bowl following the 2004 season. As both an Eagle and a Bronco, he was named to nine Pro Bowls, tying him with former Bronco John Lynch for second-most Pro Bowl appearances among NFL safeties, and six All-Pro teams.
Dawkins also leaves the game with 37 career interceptions, 1,131 tackles and 26 sacks, numbers arguably worthy of first-ballot Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2017. If he makes the Hall, Dawkins would join Reggie White, Chuck Bednarik, Steve Van Buren, Tommy McDonald, Pete Pihos, Sonny Jurgenson and Bob Brown as the only Eagles players to be there.
Here's how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL players and fans reacted to Dawkins's announcement:
Goodell: Congrats @BrianDawkins on a successful 16-year career. Great player, great family. More importantly, great man in community & locker room
Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway: Thank you, @BrianDawkins, for being a GREAT Bronco and showing such an incredible commitment to your team and community... Congratulations on a Hall of Fame career, Dawk!!!
Former Philadelphia Eagle Hugh Douglas: Brian Dawkins!! Played hard every time even in practice!! #bestIeverplayedwith
Former quarterback Trent Dilfer: Brian Dawkins was one of the greatest I had the honor of playing against! You felt his presence on every play. #TruePro #ThermostatLeader
Brian Dawkins retired from the #NFL today. He was the definition of a professional and a hard hitting safety. #Salute
Thanks Brian Dawkins for giving your all physically and mentally. #weaponx
Brian Dawkins quickly turned int one of my favorite players on the team when he joined. Sad to hear he's retiring, he's a great player.