Brian Dawkins remained loyal to the Eagles even after a bitter departure in 2009, and he's now an employee of the organization for the first time in seven years. The Eagles added the iconic safety to their scouting department as the inaugural recipient of the Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, a new program the NFL started to introduce former players to scouting.
Dawkins, 42, worked on television and helped coach high school football after his 2012 retirement, but he has long thought about returning to the Eagles. He considers this an introduction into the nonplaying side of the organization.
"It's not just scouting," Dawkins said. "I'm trying to grasp the whole gambit of football operations _ how a team is run. I'm learning about the scouting part and the terminology and all those things. ... I want to learn everything about running a football team."
Dawkins said he would embrace the grunt work required in scouting, which is not an especially glamorous existence. He will still be based in Colorado, where he has lived since signing with the Denver Broncos in 2009, but he knows this job will force him to leave his "comfort zone."
Howie Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, said Dawkins will make college visits, but the Eagles have not yet figured out the logistics. And though Dawkins is starting with a fellowship, he aspires for a much "bigger" job.
"I don't know what `bigger' is, but `bigger' is not where I'm standing right now," Dawkins said. "So whatever `bigger' is, that's what I'm pushing for."
Roseman said Dawkins helped the Eagles scout for the 2014 draft. When Roseman regained personnel control after Chip Kelly's dismissal, one of his first calls was to Dawkins. They talked about coaching during the search that landed Doug Pederson and then scouting leading up to the draft. Roseman wanted to find a way to add Dawkins to the organization, and this program offered a good entry point. It allows Dawkins to spend time with both the scouting staff and the football operations staff.
"He wants to get a global perspective _ whether that's in player engagement, whether that's in sports science, whether that's in strength and conditioning _ and how we're building this team," Roseman said. "So he really wants to be exposed to it, and you've seen this work."
Dawkins said he started taking an analytical look at players later in his career, and that can help him with player evaluations now. Roseman said Dawkins' voice as a scout could be especially useful because he could offer the perspective of a player. And though his first post-football foray was in front of the camera, Dawkins said he's most comfortable around the game _ and he understands what's needed in this organization.
"Evaluating guys to see if they can help this team going forward, to see if they can bring this place back to someplace that it was when I played," Dawkins said. "The energy was completely different. There were expectations every year of what we could do."
The Eagles have 20 employees listed in their scouting staff, none of whom played for the team. Even before the NFL started this program, Roseman said he contemplated an internship program for former players. The Eagles hired former safety Quintin Mikell as director of player engagement, and the coaching staff has a few former Eagles _ including Doug Pederson, Duce Staley, Greg Lewis, and Tim Hauck.
Dawkins is the latest to rejoin the organization, and certainly the most decorated. He's the franchise's all-time leader in games played and interceptions, with eight Pro Bowl appearances and a spot in the Eagles Hall of Fame. Dawkins said the bitterness from his 2009 exit is gone, and this job is a return to place that is significant in his life.
"This place means too much to me," Dawkins said. "It's not about the people who run it. It's about the place. It's about the Eagle green."