Brian Dawkins delivers emotional speech at Hall of Fame

Associated Press
Former NFL safety Brian Dawkins delivers his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio. - David Richard | AP photo

CANTON, Ohio — Weapon X is now a Hall of Famer.

Brian Dawkins, one of the hardest-hitting and most versatile safeties in NFL history, was inducted into the pro football shrine on Saturday with an emotional and revealing speech.

Dawkins stared at his bust and nodded his approval to the crowd.

An extremely popular player for 13 seasons in Philadelphia and another three in Denver, Dawkins guaranteed he would cry during his inductions speech. He was true to his word during a passionate oration that echoed his playing style.

“The majority of success I have had has come on the back end of pain,” he said noting he had suicidal thoughts when he battled depression. “On the other side of it, all of a sudden I became better. There’s a purpose for my pain.

“I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things I went through. For those going through this now, there is hope on the other side. Keep moving, keep pushing through.”

Dawkins was the leader of an Eagles defense that made four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. Voted to the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team and a five-time All-Pro, Dawkins intercepted passes in 15 consecutive seasons and had 37 picks overall. He averaged nearly 100 tackles a year and spotlighted his versatility as the first player in NFL history to get a sack, interception, fumble recovery and touchdown catch (on a screen pass) in a game, against Houston in 2002.

Ray Lewis

With a passionate 33-minute speech in which he strolled around the stage, ad libbed, praised and joked, spoke of sacrifice, love, glory and overcoming the odds, linebacker Ray Lewis capped off the night of inductees.

“Tell me something can’t be done is like pouring lighter fluid on an open flame,” said Lewis, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who won a second Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens for the 2012 season — coming back from a torn triceps — then retired. He was the MVP of the 2001 title game.

“I came back, and boy did I come back,” Lewis said. “When you walk off the last time with that thing, that Lombardi, it’s a confirmation I am living proof of the impossible.”

A first-year nominee, Lewis was selected 26th overall in the 1996 draft — what were other teams thinking? He wasn’t even Baltimore first choice: Jonathan Ogden was, and the big tackle made the Hall of Fame in 2013.

Randy Moss

NFL receivers usually are tall or fast. Randy Moss was both, making him the most dangerous pass catcher in the game en route to the hall.

A first-year nominee, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Moss brought the perfect combination of height, speed, soft hands and agility to Minnesota as the 21st overall draft pick in 1998 after a rocky college career. His 69 receptions, 17 for touchdowns, and 1,313 yards helped the Vikings go 15-1 and earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

That was just the start for the eccentric but always dynamic Moss. When he finally hooked up with an elite quarterback, he caught a record 23 TD passes from Tom Brady in New England’s perfect 2007 regular season.

“When I came into the NFL I had no sense of direction,” Moss said. “All I wanted to do was play football. Not for one day did I not think God was with me.”

Moss was a four-time All-Pro and member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s who played for five franchises in all. He said he didn’t regret one day with any of those clubs.

Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher became a record-28th Chicago Bear inducted into the Hall.

A first-year nominee who filled the tradition of great middle linebackers in the Windy City so brilliantly, Urlacher actually was a safety at New Mexico. Chicago selected him ninth overall in the 2000 draft and immediately converted him to linebacker. He spent two weeks in training camp on the outside, then was moved inside — for 13 spectacular seasons.

“I love everything about football: the friendships, the coaches, the teachers, the challenges, the opportunity to excel. I loved going to work every day for 13 years,” said the 2000 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year, a season in which Urlacher had 171 tackles.

Jerry Kramer

The long, long wait for Jerry Kramer has ended. At last, the star guard of the Green Bay Packers has been inducted into the hall.

A senior committee nominee, Kramer became eligible in 1974 after 11 seasons with the Packers in which he won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls. Now 82, he admitted to being bitter when often passed over for the hall, but that any such feelings “disappeared” when he got in this year.

Kramer noted the Packers went 1-10-1, the worst record in their history, when he was a rookie.

“Coach Lombardi arrived and the world turned around,” said Kramer, one of the anchors of the vaunted Green Bay offensive line under Vince Lombardi, and the guy who sprung the block to lead Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak to win the Ice Bowl against Dallas for the 1967 conference title. The Packers then won a second straight Super Bowl.

Bobby Beathard

Bobby Beathard, who won four Super Bowls as a team executive and drafted four Pro Football Hall of Famers, has entered the hall himself.

A contributor’s committee nominee, Beathard worked for the Chiefs, Falcons, Dolphins, Redskins and Chargers. He won NFL titles each with Miami, including the perfect 1972 season, and Washington — where he hired fellow Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs as coach. He also helped Kansas City and San Diego make Super Bowls.

Robert Brazile

Dr. Doom has entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Robert Brazile earned that nickname by playing in all 147 games for the Houston Oilers in his 10-year NFL career.

A senior committee nominee, Brazile was drafted sixth overall out of Jackson State, two picks behind his teammate. He made such an immediate pro impact he was the 1975 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and went on to five All-Pro seasons as one of the game’s most versatile linebackers. He was in on a stunning 185 tackles in 1978.

Former NFL safety Brian Dawkins delivers his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_AP18217051571014.jpgFormer NFL safety Brian Dawkins delivers his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio. David Richard | AP photo

Associated Press