Brian Dawkins has no idea how he'll react Sunday, when he watches his No. 20 jersey formally retired before the Eagles-Giants game at Lincoln Financial Field.
''I've thought about it, and I just don't know,'' he said. ''Will I kick into game mode or will I be a mushy tear machine? I don't know. All I know is it's an awesome thing. Last time I checked, this is not a normal thing, for guys to get their numbers retired when they're yet young and alive. It's a tremendous honor.''
Dawkins, a former safety who spent the first 13 of his 16 NFL years in Philadelphia, will become only the eighth Eagle to have his number retired.
''Just the fact that my number's being retired . I still can't believe that,'' he said Friday. ''This is not something that happens every day. To know that the biggest sport in the U.S. and one of the biggest markets in the National Football League, that my number is now going to be retired there? Come on.''
The Eagles will retire No. 20 during a ceremony in the headhouse area of Lincoln Financial Field prior to their Sunday night tilt against the Giants. Dawkins will also be honored at halftime, when he will address the crowd.
''It's going to be electric,'' Dawkins said. ''When I got a chance to cross the threshold and ease out of the smoke, I never doubted what the atmosphere was going to be like on gameday. And it's probably going to be even louder this time. Looking forward to that, definitely, one last time.''
Fans will walk away with a keepsake from the night, as well. Dawkins, a fan of Wolverine, one of Marvel's famous super heroes, will be featured in a special poster given to incoming patrons before the game. The poster, designed by artist Jorge Molina and sponsored by Marvel, will feature Dawkins in the pose of his favorite legendary X-Men character.
''Every week, Eagles fans witnessed Brian transform himself from a humble, mild-mannered man to the fearless competitor that he was on Sundays,'' Eagles President Don Smolenski said. ''He was a special player - ferocious, intense, fearless, intelligent - and on top of that, he was an incredible leader.''
Dawkins, a second-round pick out of Clemson in 1996, started 182 games in an Eagles uniform and recorded 34 interceptions, 21 sacks and 32 forced fumbles. Including his four years in Denver, Dawkins had 37 interceptions, 26 sacks and 36 forced fumbles. He is the only safety in NFL history with 25 interceptions and 35 sacks. His 26 career sacks are second-most by a safety, behind Rodney Harrison's 30. But his legacy in Philadelphia goes way beyond the numbers. Because of his work ethic, personality and ability to connect with the fans, he's one of the most revered athletes in the city's sports history.
''If I had a motto, it would be humble but hungry,'' he said. ''That's how I lived, that's how I walked, that's how I played, that's how I attacked things. I was hungry. I wanted to be the best at what I did, but I understood that I needed to be a humble man, and I was able to attain some greater heights because of that humbleness.''
Dawkins will join Steve Van Buren (15), Tom Brookshier (40), Pete Retzlaff (44), Chuck Bednarik (60), Al Wistert (70), Reggie White (92) and Jerome Brown (99) as the eighth player in the Eagles' 80-year history to have his number retired. But he said he doesn't think he could feel more loved by Eagles fans, whether his number was retired or not.
''That's just icing on the top,'' he said. ''If that was the case, you know, if my number was not retired, would they love me any less? No. You're already eating cake as it is , and it's good to put the icing on it, it's awesome.
''But it's still good regardless.''
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