Safety Brian Dawkins, who revealed in feature stories published this past week that he dealt with depression and thoughts of suicide during his career, especially in his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles, didn’t hide from his truth during his speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.
The 61st pick in the 1996 draft out of Clemson, Dawkins’ speech, which came in at just over 22 minutes, highlighted the many people who helped him throughout his life; he even asked if he could have their named embroidered into the lining of his jacket, so he can always get a reminder of those people when he puts the jacket on.
“Because I did not get here by myself,” he emphasized.
But more than the support he got on the football field, Dawkins acknowledged the support he got off it, and encouraged others who may be struggling.
“I suffer from depression. I went through it mightily my rookie year. I’ve suffered through suicidal thoughts, and I wasn’t just suffering through suicidal thoughts — I was actually planning the way I would kill myself so my wife would get the money,” he said.
“But what that pain did for me, it increased my faith exponentially. I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things I have gone through and that’s one of those things that I went through, and when I say went through, that means I came out the other side of it. So for those who are going through right now, there’s hope. You do have hope. There is something on the other side of this. Don’t get caught up where you are. Don’t stay where you are. Keep moving. Keep pushing through.”
Dawkins’ friend and Clemson teammate Patrick Sapp said Dawkins used to wake in the middle of the night to eat meals like peanut butter sandwiches and spaghetti to try to get bigger.
“It wasn’t supposed to be me. This wasn’t supposed to happen to Brian Dawkins; it was not. I was not the biggest of guys growing up,” he said. “I was not always ‘the dude.’ It was never me. I was always called ‘little this, little that,’ and I got tired of that crap. And so I grew a chip on my shoulder, but also what began to grow was anger in me, that I would lose control of once in a while.”
Dawkins singled out Emmitt Thomas, his defensive coordinator in his early seasons with the Eagles and a man he calls Uncle Emmitt, as someone who helped save him.
“I want to thank you. You blessed me,” Dawkins told Thomas. “When I was in those depressive states, when I was thinking about suicide, it was because of your hand, your guidance, and your believing in me, helping me to go see somebody about the struggles that I was having, to allow me to be alive today.
“Also what Emmitt did for me, is Emmitt would not let me settle for average. He would not let me settle for good. He saw greatness in me that I did not see.”
After acknowledging his other coaches, Dawkins turned to his parents, his four children, and his wife, Connie.
“The other part of me being here is because of that woman, because of Connie, because of you, because of your urging me to see a psychologist to talk about my problems and be more open with you about my problems so we could talk things out,” he said. “You prayed for me, you were there for me, you would not let me settle, and for that, I want to present something to you today.”
The camera trained on her as Dawkins spoke, Connie’s face changed when he mentioned that he had something for her, clearly wondering what was about to happen.
A woman sitting behind her placed a beautiful gold shawl on her shoulders.
“I have my gold jacket, but what I want to present to you, sweetheart, is something gold as well. That’s my Hall of Fame wife right there,” Dawkins said.
Connie blew him a kiss and said, “Thank you, baby.”
“Don’t settle. Don’t settle in this life!,” Dawkins said. “Don’t settle! Don’t allow yourself to settle. Push through the pain. On the other side of that pain is something special God has for you.”
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