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July 15, 2022

Brian Dawkins talks about his Wolverine collaboration with Marvel Comics

In the Philly sports pantheon, there isn't a more fitting nickname than "Weapon X" for Hall of Fame Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. 

The love Dawkins has for the Marvel Comics X-Men character Wolverine is no secret. That "Weapon X" name is taken from the government research program in the Marvel universe that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton, making those infamous claws of his even more deadly. That berserker energy Dawkins illustrated on the field with the Birds made it seem like he too was a wild mutant ready to take down opposing running backs and receivers with that razor-sharp edge he carried himself with.

This summer, the Dawkins and Wolverine combo increased even more: a variant cover of the comic book issue Wolverine #22 featuring artwork from veteran illustrator Carlos Pacheco has both Dawkins and "Logan" on the prowl and ready to explode:

Being perhaps the most beloved athlete in Philadelphia's history, Dawkins' personality where he channeled the chaotic rage of Wolverine while roaming the secondary only made him seem that much cooler. It's part of the fabric of who he is to Eagles fans. That ferociousness that Wolverine represents, whether he's battling Sentinels or taking down organized crime rings in Madripoor, was always present in Dawkins' game. 

How did this collaboration come about? In speaking with PhillyVoice, Dawkins says he was put into contact with the right people and "heard about a special that Marvel was doing with a bunch of players as far as putting into the characters to the players we turn into on gameday. Them knowing that I love Marvel and love Wolverine so much, it kind of fit hand-in-hand to put me on that cover, which is an absolute blessing."

This is not the first time Dawkins has gotten the Marvel treatment. 

"This is the actually the third time I've been drawn by one of the artists who draw Wolverine," Dawkins added. "The first time I was still a player, a rendition of me as Wolverine with the claws coming out. The second one was that retirement poster, but this is the first time I've been on the cover with Wolverine. This is the first time we've been on the same picture together. So, again, this is a thrill for me to be able to have that opportunity with Wolverine.

"It's just one of those things I never would've imagined in my life to see at some point. Here I am, this cat who used to love reading these comic books to one day have my image on the same picture as Wolverine."

Dawkins has had a lifelong adoration for Wolverine, even before he was crawling out of the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field as if he was the X-Man himself hopping into battle.

"It was back with that X-Men series back in the day that I would watch coming home from school," Dawkins says about his Wolverine fandom and the iconic "X-Men: The Animated Series" cartoon from the '90s. "I've always been a fan of the comic book and then when the show came out when I would push record on my VCR to make sure it timed perfectly. 

"It's something about that character and the past of that character, and some of the the flaws of that character. It's beyond not just the claws and I love the claws, don't get me wrong. I love the fact that he fought and when he fights he has to be up close and personal. It's not a lot of long distance fighting. He's hand-to-hand in your face. I love that about him. I love the fact that he's always going to fight for the people that he loves. He's going to fight to the death."

(Dawkins, dropping knowledge, quickly corrects himself about how improbable it is for Wolverine to die given his healing factor mutant power.)

He's right about Wolverine though. For younger viewers and fans, it's easy to be drawn to the guy who fiercely goes after people with those oh-so-sharp claws. Getting older and maturing though, all the grief Wolverine has experienced in his life becomes more evident and more relatable. He's loved and lost more times than he can count (and lost his memory as many times too). He will always be branded as a feral killer no matter the way he attempts to make amends and grow as a person. It's a reality check or at least as much of a reality check it can be when discussing some short Canadian dude with metal claws popping out of his hands. 

"There's a lot of darkness in his past, the things he's had to overcome, he's constantly trying to overcome, constantly trying to remember to forget, trying to get some counseling sessions from Professor X to help him through those dark times," Dawkins says of Wolverine. "There's a lot to the backstory for that character that kind of invited me into that space because he also has a tremendous anger issue at times. It's a lot of things that I dealt with in my life that this character went through."

It was only as Dawkins entered the NFL, however, that his Wolverine fandom began to spill over to his on-field demeanor. 

"It didn't really connect completely until probably when I got in the league," said Dawkins about his Weapon X persona. "I called that part of me when I got in the league 'The Idiot Man' and I was 'the Idiot Man' for a long time. And then, as we really began to look into all of the Wolverine characters I had in my locker that I had, you kind of put two and two together.

"And also, the way that Jim Johnson was using me as a weapon, as a weapon all over the field. You couldn't call me a free safety. You couldn't call me just a strong safety because he used me in every facet. He used me as a corner sometimes, he used me as a defensive end. I would be a nose tackle if I blitzed in the A gap. I was blitzing and doing a lot of things all over the field, so it kind of fit hand-in-hand to be called Weapon X. We call him Wolverine, but I love the name Weapon X more."

"That's one of the things I wanted to with the safety position was be a freelance safety," Dawkins says. As the safety position evolved at the turn of the 21st century, Dawkins' play was at the forefront of that movement. "I was a freelance safety for a long time. I was not a free or strong safety. Once again, when I really begin to connect the dots mentally as it pertains to the way I play the game, the character that I loved... That all fit into this gumbo, if you will, to now have Weapon X be the name... Actually the name I'm known for the most is Weapon X."

Going beyond just the superhero talk, I asked Dawkins about the best Eagles defensive backs he played with. The sports staff at PhillyVoice ranked the best Eagles defensive backs of all time recently. Naturally, Dawkins was in the top spot. In talking with "Weapon X" himself, I mentioned that Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor were two of his teammates that I ranked highly and adored growing up while watching the team.

"I've been blessed to play alongside some great cornerbacks," Dawkins said. "Troy and Bobby and Al [Harris]. At one point, Lito [Sheppard] and Sheldon [Brown] came into their own. The two that I've been blessed to truly pay attention to are Eric Allen and Troy. I learned a lot from Troy, watched him, imitated a lot of ways as far as my coverage is concerned, so I learned a lot from him and to be a professional as well. And then I only got one year to play with Asante [Samuel], but I will tell you that he is definitely one of the best as far as jumping dig routes. I've never seen a dude be able to jump a dig route to get his shoulders in front of the receiver the way he does. His anticipation and his closing speed is unbelievable."

All of those guys are great, but coming from a South Philly native with an X-Men tattoo, no one comes close to Weapon X. 

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