CANTON, Ohio — This was my fifth trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and by far the most memorable.
Seeing Dawk walk up to that podium and deliver that speech with those fans in the house? It was everything you could have imagined (see story).
Dawk being Dawk.
The buildup was enormous but Dawk came up huge, just like he always does.
It might be a while before another Eagle goes into the Hall. Eric Allen SHOULD. Seth Joyner and Harold Carmichael, too.
But it probably won’t be until Jason Peters retires that Philly will reconvene in Canton. And if Peters plays two more years, that means he wouldn’t be eligible until 2025!
So as Philly recovers from all the excitement and convoys of Eagles fans make their way east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, here are my 10 Observations from the weekend in Canton.
1. I give Dawk so much credit for going public with his battle with depression. For Dawk, as ferocious an athlete as we’ve ever seen, to devote several minutes of his acceptance speech Saturday night to discuss how he considered taking his own life and sought counseling for depression as a young NFL player, that’s powerful stuff. And hopefully others who may be reluctant to seek help will hear his words and know it’s OK. Just by tackling this topic, Dawk will save lives. The more we talk about mental health and take it out of the dark ages the better. And for Dawk to make this such a huge part of his speech was a brave and courageous and important thing to do, and I’m incredibly proud of him.
2. And my goodness, when Dawk spoke about Emmitt Thomas urging him to see a psychologist and saving his life … tell me there was an Eagles fan anywhere on Earth with a dry eye. I was sitting in the press box bawling. I knew Emmitt was a Hall of Fame player and a pretty good defensive coordinator under Ray Rhodes. I had no idea of the impact he had on young Brian Dawkins — and presumably countless other young players. Thank you, Emmitt.
3. Walking around the Hall of Fame on Friday, I was disappointed there was very little honoring any of the early Eagles championship teams. The Eagles went to three straight NFL Championship Games from 1947 through 1949 and won the last two without allowing a point! And the 1960 NFL Championship team handed Vince Lombardi his only loss ever in a playoff game. But those two eras of Eagles football were ignored in the 1940s and 1960s displays. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is an incredible place to visit, and they do have a lot of fascinating Eagles memorabilia, and I love that Nick Foles is all over the place. My favorite Eagles artifact was the actual certificate allowing the Eagles into the NFL in 1933. But I would have liked to have seen the Eagles teams from the late 1940s and 1960 represented.
4. Amazing that four of Dawk’s secondary coaches with the Eagles went on to become head coaches: Leslie Frazier (1999-02), Steve Spagnuolo (2001-03), John Harbaugh (2007) and Sean McDermott (2003-06, 2008) were all either defensive backs or safeties coach under Reid and became head coaches. Was great to see both Harbs and McDermott at the enshrinement Saturday night.
5. When Dawk gave Connie the gold veil so she could go in the Hall of Fame with him, man, I just thought that was such a sweet moment. All the Hall of Famers thank their wives or significant others. Dawk found a unique and meaningful way to do it.
6. One of the best parts about Hall of Fame weekend is the random meetings with the all-time greats of the game. I had always wanted to meet Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little and ask him about his days at Bordentown Military Academy in Burlington County, and when I saw him looking at T-shirts in the Hall of Fame gift shop Friday I finally got my chance. Little grew up in New Haven, Conn., but starred at BMI in 1961 and 1962, leading the Cadets to back-to-back undefeated seasons and earning a scholarship to Syracuse. He shared the BMI backfield with Joe Plumeri, who now owns the Trenton Thunder. Anyway, Floyd was thrilled to talk about his days at BMI, even though that was almost 60 years ago. “You remember BMI?” he said with a laugh of the military school that closed in 1973. “I loved it there. That’s where it all started.”
7. I thought Jerry Kramer’s speech was fantastic.
8. There were Eagles fans EVERYWHERE all weekend and it was a blast hearing everybody’s stories about Dawk and the Eagles (see story). I was in a parking lot in North Canton on Saturday morning and saw a couple walking in the distance – he was wearing a Cris Carter Eagles jersey and she was wearing a Randall Cunningham Eagles jersey. Cris and Randall were together here from 1987 through 1989, and that’s 30 years ago! I ran after them and we ended up chatting about Cris and Randall for 10 minutes. They had come out to Canton for Carter’s Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2013 and had such a good time they come every year now. A lot was made about how many Eagles fans came out to Canton this weekend. Probably about 10,000. But it’s not really about the number. There’s a story behind every one of those fans, and I love hearing them.
9. Say what you want about Andy Reid and his clock management and lack of a Super Bowl win in 19 years of coaching. He showed what kind of person he is by chartering a plane to whisk him to Canton just in time for the Gold Jacket Dinner Friday night and then whisk him back to Missouri for an 8 a.m. Chiefs training camp practice Saturday morning (see story). Andy’s a good man.
10. I am just not a fan of Ray Lewis. At all.