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Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins fulfills his next chapter in life through charitable work in the community

Dawkins wants to continue his work for the Impact Foundation, and also looks to get back involved in football one day: "I never say never."

Former Eagles player Brian Dawkins interacting with Army veteran Thomas Brooks after Brooks received a new donated truck during a ceremony at the Convention Center on Dec. 9.
Former Eagles player Brian Dawkins interacting with Army veteran Thomas Brooks after Brooks received a new donated truck during a ceremony at the Convention Center on Dec. 9.Read moreJose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

Brian Dawkins grabbed a children’s chair, flipped it backward, and squatted as he waved away media members who offered to get him a normal-size chair.

“I’m flexible,” said the Eagles icon, who was known for bear-crawling onto Lincoln Financial Field on game day.

Dawkins came bearing gifts last week to a classroom at Caring People Alliance’s R.W. Brown Boys & Girls Club in North Philly. He was wearing a Santa hat, a “Blessed By The Best” long-sleeve shirt, and his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, shining on his middle finger. In each of the gift bags he brought was a mix of art supplies, books and toys for the preschool and kindergarten children to use in the classroom.

The nine-time Pro Bowl safety is embracing the next part of his life after playing 16 seasons in the NFL, including the first 13 with the Eagles. Since starting a philanthropic venture, Dawkins has made regular visits to communities in Philadelphia.

From doing charity work through the Brian Dawkins Impact Foundation to writing a memoir, Dawkins said he goes about life differently since closing his NFL chapter.

“The way that I talk, the way that I communicate, [is] different,” said Dawkins, who retired from the NFL at 39 after the 2011 season, the last of three he spent with Denver. “You have to take ownership. The more ownership you take, the more you’ll change the things that need to be changed in order to be what you’re going to be.”

After his playing career ended, Dawkins joined the Eagles front office staff in 2016 as a football operations executive. However, he left the organization less than two years later.

Before then, some thought that one of the most popular players in franchise history someday would become a general manager. But, through serving in his position, Dawkins had a realization about the conversations he was having with the players in the locker room.

“Some of the things that I was doing were kind of behind the scenes with the players,” Dawkins said. “Some of the effects I was blessed to have on them. … My heart changed that I wanted to do that same thing outside of the building.

“I know the power of a moment. I know what that vision is. I began to create images of myself having a level of success that allowed my family to live in a place that I went to visit one time. I began to separate myself from individuals that I thought would prevent me from getting there.”

» READ MORE: ‘That’ll forever be how people see me’: Brian Dawkins embodies Weapon X

During his rookie season with the Eagles in 1996, Dawkins put a load of pressure on himself. The second-round pick out of Clemson had a newborn son, Brian, and knew he needed to provide for his family.

The weight of the pressure progressively got heavier. He struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. It was difficult to channel those emotions in the right direction. Although he pushed most people in his life away as he fell into a dark place, his wife, Connie, and others would not let it happen.

So when Dawkins saw other young players dealing with similar emotions, he confided in them, looking to be an outlet. But it also left him with an unfulfilled feeling. He believed others — outside of football — could benefit from his guidance.

“I couldn’t do it while I was playing football because I was too concentrated on football,” Dawkins said about starting his foundation. “To be honest with you, this is not what I saw myself doing, having a foundation ... but that’s what the Lord put on my heart to do.”

Since he started his foundation in 2019, Dawkins has learned to become more in tune with the power of the moment.

But some wonder — will the Eagles legend ever look to get involved in football one day, whether it’s coaching or a front office job?

“I never say never,” Dawkins said. “I just don’t see myself doing things in the NFL. I definitely won’t be a coach. That’s definitely not in my toolbox.

“If I do anything, it’s as a consultant or something like that at some point. I just don’t know where it will be. I’m blessed to have learned a whole lot of football. When I see the game, I see it differently. I explain it differently, so I know that version will be taught to someone. I just don’t know when that will be.”

» READ MORE: Brian Dawkins thought about ending his life. His wife helped save it.

The fans certainly haven’t forgotten about one of the team’s leaders who contributed behind the scenes to the Eagles’ success in Super Bowl LII, and, for now, Dawkins plans to continue to come back to the city that gave him an opportunity to grow in the league.

“This is a blue-collar place, and I’m a blue-collar dude, as I work for what I have,” said Dawkins, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. “It wasn’t supposed to be me to make it out of my neighborhood. Every place that blessed me, we’re going to bless those individuals, and some of the individuals are in those communities.”