When Von Miller cried, Brian Dawkins knew the taste of those tears. Rare is the NFL legend who gets to write his final chapter. Man plans. God laughs.
“Oh, they’re going to miss him,” Dawkins, the NFL Hall of Famer and former Broncos and Philadelphia safety, said of seeing the Vonster in Rams gold.
“But it’s going to be imperative for them to move on, and focus on what they need to do to have success without him. It’s going to be tough. Guys have to step up. When someone leaves, the opportunity opens up for somebody to step up into that spot.”
The Eagles are coming to Mile High on Sunday for the first time since 2013, which makes Week 10 a more personal one for Dawkins, a.k.a. “Weapon X,” the enforcer who did 13 years of damage in the city of Brotherly Love before spending his final three seasons with the Broncos.
“To me, the Broncos know more of who they are a little bit more than the Eagles do,” Dawkins said of Sunday’s matchup at Empower Field. “At this point, you honestly don’t know what you’re going to get with the Eagles every week. They are literally the epitome of a team growing up, and you literally just don’t know what you’re going to get every week.
“Are the coaches going to run the ball? Are they not going to run the ball? Are they going to blitz? Are they not going to blitz? You don’t know what you’re going to get from that team.”
And ain’t it funny how time flies? It’s been 10 years since Dawkins’ final season in the Broncos secondary, a 2011 season marked by Tebow Mania, the arrival of coach John Fox, and one of the strangest AFC West titles — a division crowned with an 8-8 record and clinched by tiebreakers — in Denver lore.
“I’m not someone that’s jovial after a loss,” said Dawkins, now 48 and whose new biography, “Blessed By The Best: My Journey to Canton And Beyond,” reflects the hard-hitting defender’s road to the NFL, his battles with depression, his faith, and his spiritual bedrock through good times and bad.
“When you’re a competitor, you hate to lose, right? So my way of handling it was to be quiet, be respectful of other guys who were maybe feeling worse than I (was). That wasn’t necessarily the atmosphere (with the Broncos), I will say it like that. It was different.”
The new tome, like his career, is more Eagles-centric. But Dawkins’ reach continues to be felt here, in Philly and in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., through his Impact Foundation, which is slated to receive half of the book’s net proceeds.
“I don’t want to criticize (Denver),” he laughed. “The (fans here) are just different, I guess. There’s a dark side (in Philly). I don’t know how to say it. Both fan bases are extremely intelligent when it comes to football. But it’s that dark side with (the Eagles fans), that’s what I was used to.”
Dawkins was named to the Pro Bowl in two of his three seasons in Broncos orange, including 2011. One of the other bright lights on that Denver defense was a rookie outside linebacker out of Texas A&M, a first-round pick with a high motor and an infectious personality.
“The success he’s had doesn’t surprise me from what I saw of Von’s rookie year,” Dawkins said of the Broncos icon, who was traded to the Rams last week for two 2022 draft picks. “I’m not the only one that saw that in him.”
He also feels Miller’s pain right now. Despite more than a decade of service, Dawkins felt disrespected and unwanted by Eagles management after the 2008 season, eventually agreeing to a five-year deal with the Broncos worth $17 million, $7.2 million guaranteed.
But even the deepest cuts heal up, eventually. Dawkins announced his retirement in April 2012, just as the Peyton Manning Era in Denver was getting underway. Five days later, he signed a one-day contract with Philadelphia so he could retire an Eagle.
You never forget that first team. That first contract. That first Super Bowl. Or that first love.
And when it comes to the Vonster putting on that old No. 58 jersey again, one more time, Dawkins said, you never say never.
“When you cut your teeth in a place and you’re there forever and have great success there, that’s a tough thing to do,” he laughed. “It’s my hope that when Von (plays in Los Angeles), that they’re as welcoming to him as Denver was to me.”