CANTON, Ohio — Precisely 593 men have played football for the Eagles since Jeffrey Lurie bought the team in 1994.
One stands out above all the others.
“There’s nobody better,” Lurie said. “I’ve always said he’s my favorite.”
Lurie led the Eagles contingent that arrived in Northeast Ohio on Friday to support Brian Dawkins during his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As he arrived at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Lurie spoke with John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia about what Dawkins meant to him and meant to the franchise he’s operated for nearly a quarter of a century.
“There are some others who are unbelievable, too,” Lurie said. “But Brian every single day, it didn’t matter how good a team we were or not, he gave everything to our fans and to the organization.
“Every game was like the Super Bowl to him and he set a tone for the rest of the team and the rest of the organization, and that’s how we treat things.
“I really credit Brian. It means so much to him and the fans meant so much [to him], and he means so much to the fans. It’s a love affair.”
Lurie watched Dawkins evolve from a backup to Eric Zomalt as his rookie year began to one of the greatest safeties in NFL history.
And he watched his growth off the field as well.
“I can’t be more proud,” he said. “It hasn’t been smooth and easy for Brian, emotionally and in many ways. This year our team had incredible resilience, as you all know, with all the injuries and everything.
“Brian’s the epitome of that in his life. He had early struggles. He had great mentors in Emmitt [Thomas] and Jim Johnson. But he, with his own strength, and with mentors and help around him, it just shows how, if you have a lot of love around you, you can come back and do things that are better than you ever dreamed yourself.
“I think that’s one of the things Brian brought to Philadelphia, something very special.”
Lurie marveled at the massive turnout of Eagles fans that took over Canton this weekend.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “There are some great players being inducted. Ray Lewis, (Brian) Urlacher, the list goes on and on. But there are more Eagles fans here than all the others put together, and it’s great to see.
“Dawk deserves everything. It’s an emotional time. I tear up every time (I think about him going) down the aisle and getting the gold jacket, and tonight I’m sure I will. It’s special.”
More on Brian Dawkins
- How Dawkins created a generation of Philly sports fans