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November 14, 2018

Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins is honored at the 20th Annual Otho Davis Foundation Scholarship dinner

He still cast a granite figure, tucked under a sharp black hat and a black jacket, even after being out of football for seven years. The jutting jaw, the intense, sometimes watery eyes, all that was missing was the midnight green No. 20 on his back.

Pro Football Hall of Famer and all-time Eagle great Brian Dawkins remains magnetic. He attracted a who’s who among the Philadelphia football community Wednesday night at the Sheraton Society Hill for the 20th Annual Otho Davis Foundation Scholarship dinner. The Otho Davis Foundation has awarded $267,000 in scholarships to students studying the sciences of athletic training all over the Delaware Valley. It is named after the late Eagles trainer, Otho Davis, who was a pioneer in the field.

It only seemed fitting that No. 20 was honored on the 20th anniversary of the event.

“The foundation dinner is grand event — it’s Football Night in Philly!” declared ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, who was brilliant as the MC of the event. “It’s why all the sport’s luminaries attend to honor the legacy of this trailblazer and celebrate America’s Game.

“Brian Dawkins was not only a great player, but a true gentleman. My favorite Brian Dawkins moment is not a particular spectacular play, but the night he apologized to me after a game against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. It was 2004, the year Dawkins led the Eagles defense to the Super Bowl. The Eagles had just destroyed the Giants — 27-6 at the Meadowlands.

“Dawkins played brilliantly. He was so emotional after the game, I couldn’t get a coherent word out of him in an interview on the field. So, after the locker room cleared, he came looking for me and apologized and — with tears in his eyes — did the interview over again. In 25 years as an NFL field reporter that was first and only time that happened to me. I’ll never forget it.”

The dinner and foundation holds a very special meaning to Ron Jaworski, an Eagles’ 1992 Hall of Fame inductee. Jaws knew Davis intimately. Jaworski probably took more punishment than any Eagles’ quarterback in the history of the franchise. 

But Davis was always able to put Jaws back together again.

“Otho was a very special person, not only to us players, but everyone in the world of professional sports and he did so much for the players, and did so much for them,” said Jaworski with a crack of emotion in his voice. “Otho was the head of the trainer’s association nationally for many, many years and his life was committed to athletic training.

“He was always on the cutting edge of technology and what could get players back on the field, and keeping them healthy and safe. There was only one Otho Davis, and when the opportunity came to honor him with this dinner, it was unanimous that everyone from Jimmy Solano, Harold Carmichael, Duke Davis and myself, we all got on board because we all had a tremendous love for Otho.”

What added to the event was the special love for another special person whom to many embodies the Eagles — Brian Dawkins.

“There couldn’t be a better representative of the Otho Davis on the 20th anniversary than No. 20, Brian Dawkins,” Jaworski said. “Brian’s not only an iconic figure as a football player, but his reach in the country now as a hall of famer. Brian stands for all of the good things that we believe in, not only on the football field, but off the field as a person with tremendous character.

“It’s why this is a great event tonight. Brian is not only a great ambassador of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he’s a great ambassador of the National Football League. To me, Brian Dawkins is the poster child of what an NFL player should be. When Brian walked off the field, he was a pro. He handled himself in a professional manner. When you get off the field, all anyone asks is that you represent your community, your city, your team and your teammates in the utmost professional way and Brian always did that.”

We have more inside of us. And as long I’m breathing, I’m going to continue living this life with a purpose and bless as many people as possible until the good Lord calls me home.

Dawkins’ old teammate, Troy Vincent, currently the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations, was the best. He spoke about Dawkins’ ability to do so many different things on the field as a free safety. Vincent made the point that there are 12 different individual defensive stats in football.

“And only No. 20 was the rare kind of player who hit all of them,” Vincent said. “Sometimes, your position doesn’t allow to do that. But Brian hit them all. Sack, caused fumble, pressure, Ike (Reese) is still looking for Brian to curse.

“Brian has had a wonderful journey. What you see from Brian is what you get. To watch him get on that Hall of Fame stage, I would have gone up there with a book. As they prepare you for the Hall of Fame, I was in the back of the car driving over to the hall with Brian.

“Brian is in the front seat and I asked him, ‘Hey B, man, do you have notes? There are about 20 million people who are going to watch this. What are you going to say?’ Brian has a balled up piece of paper and we had an hour before we went on stage. He passed the paper back to me. I opened it up and there were three points on the paper.

“I told Brian, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ Then Brian says to me, ‘I’m going to let God lead me today.’ And what did we see? Arguably the best that we ever saw.”

Finally, Dawkins took the stage and spoke in glowing terms of Otho Davis.

“Mr. Davis shined and blessed others with his gifts and was a positive individuals who affected other people’s lives,” Dawkins said. “I look back on Mr. Davis’ life, he went to work and he enjoyed every moment of it. We all have lights inside of us.

“We have lights inside to shine on others and bless others. I recognized something inside myself and I had to push through some stuff in my life. If you say the word ‘smile,’ it says something to your brain. I refuse to walk through life and not exercise everything that I have within this vessel.

“I don’t know everything within this vessel. This is a blessing to be here. What else do we have to bless people with? We still have a light within us. It’s that light that Mr. Davis showed every year he came to work. How many more people can I provide for by moving forward? We can’t settle. If I stopped taking chances, I wouldn’t have been blessed with being a Hall of Famer. The moment we stop living is the moment we start dying slowly.

“We have more inside of us. And as long I’m breathing, I’m going to continue living this life with a purpose and bless as many people as possible until the good Lord calls me home.”

After listening to Dawkins, the packed room at the Sheraton Society Hill stood and cheered. For a moment, there was an underlying feeling that they were all Brian Dawkins, ready to run through a wall.

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