This is how much of a kinship Brian Dawkins has with the game of football.
And it won’t surprise anybody.
“I was in Orlando with my family and we’re passing by a football field, me and my brother in law, to go to the gym,” Dawkins said. “There’s nobody in the stadium. But as I passed by, there’s a certain comfort I have when I see football fields.”
That connection, that bond, to the game he loves and the team he loves has ultimately brought Dawkins back to Philadelphia, where from 1996 through 2008 he firmly established himself as one of the greatest Eagles of all-time.
The Eagles announced Saturday morning that eight years after he was allowed to leave for Denver as a free agent, Dawkins has rejoined the franchise to work in the scouting department (see story).
Dawkins initially joins the Eagles' scouting team as part of the NFL’s Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship, a new program aimed at introducing former players to the world of player personnel and the duties of an NFL scout.
As of now, Dawkins is committed to working with the Eagles through the draft in April.
But both Dawkins and Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said this relationship could evolve into a permanent one. And a very important one.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity, I really am,” Dawkins said. “It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it just so happened we were able to talk about it and get something done with it.”
Dawkins retired after the 2011 season, his third year in Denver. He worked for ESPN from the fall of 2012 through this past football season. He said ESPN did not renew his contract after last year, which opened up the door for him to explore a return to the NFL.
“I enjoyed my time there, I really did,” he said. “But it was one of those things where everything fell into place for me to have more freedom to do other things, and this was that opportunity and it presented itself and I jumped on it and we’re rolling with a fluid situation.
“This is something that I’ve been thinking for a while. I didn’t know it would come to fruition this fast, but here it is. And sometimes, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone to really see what you can achieve. And so this is something that I’m really looking forward to, to see if this will move to something even bigger.”
Dawkins is with the Eagles at training camp this week, but he will be based for the time being in Denver, where he’s lived since signing with the Broncos and where his daughter is still in high school.
Roseman, very interestingly, revealed on Saturday morning that he has used Dawkins as an informal player personnel consultant, both when he was general manager through 2014 and again since being re-instated in a similar role with a new title by owner Jeff Lurie after Chip Kelly’s firing.
“I’ve (been) always trying to get him here because he’s got such a bright future, he’s got such a great football mind and a great presence and leadership ability, which translates to the front office,” Roseman said Saturday.
“I always think about (Hall of Fame tight end and Ravens general manager) Ozzie Newsome and how he made that transition, and then talking to (Dawkins) during the coaching search, as we were going into the offseason about the team.
“And then he did more evaluations this year for the draft and (we) continued to try to find the right role for him that he felt comfortable with, and when this came along it was a perfect transition for him, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him in the building and helping us as we move forward here.”
Dawkins was a first-team all-pro four times and a Pro Bowler seven times with the Eagles. He made two more Pro Bowls with the Broncos.
It's interesting that the Eagles’ safeties the last time they won a playoff game – 2008 – are now back with the team.
Quintin Mikell, who spent the 2003 through 2010 seasons with the Eagles and made the Pro Bowl in 2009, was a coaching intern last year and currently serves as director of player engagement.
Dawkins said evaluating players comes naturally to him.
“I love it,” he said. “When you get up there in age playing the game, you see young guys come in and you’re hoping they can help the team win that year, so you start to evaluate, even back then.
“So now that I’m out of the game I just take those things that I learned then and apply them now. Evaluating guys and seeing if they can help this team going forward.”
Asked what he wants to accomplish in this role, Dawkins looked up at the NovaCare Complex 50 feet away and spoke in that hyper-intense Dawk whisper we all know so well.
“To bring this place back to someplace when we played, when I played here,” he said. “The energy was completely different. There were expectations every year with what we were going to do, and I’m pretty sure the players would tell you the exact same thing. They want to get this thing back there as well.
“This is a place I feel comfortable. Not just this organization, but the football field, watching tape, having those conversations, I feel comfortable doing those things.”
But Dawkins said he ultimately doesn’t want to limit himself to scouting.
“I’m trying to grasp the whole gamut of football operations, how a team is run,” he said. “So I’m learning about the scouting part of it, but sometimes it’s either you have an eye or you don’t, and I’ve been blessed to have an eye to be able to see talent, so if I can help in that respect I’d love to that, but I also want to learn everything I can about running a football team.”
Roseman and Dawkins both hinted at a major role for Dawkins in the organization moving forward.
Could he one day be the general manager? A team vice president?
Don’t bet against it.
“He’s going to start with scouting and work with Joe (Douglas, vice president of player personnel) and his guys because he’s done that and he’s written evaluations for us,” Roseman said.
“But we don’t want to limit him to that. His ability to communicate to the players … everything that we’re doing that’s different than when he was a player from a strength and conditioning standpoint, from a sports science standpoint, his observations on the team as a whole.
“We’re really going to drop him into a bunch of areas that he’s interested in, but it starts with the scouting department.”
Beyond his individual accomplishments, Dawk played for the Eagles during the most successful period in modern franchise history.
The Eagles have won 19 playoff games, and Dawkins was on the field for 10 of them.
More than half.
“He’s been part of championship-caliber teams, so he understands about what that looks like and the energy and enthusiasm that that has, and he’s been in a defense similar to this, so he knows the responsibilities,” Roseman said.
“He’s also looking at it from a guy who played the position. When he’s watching DBs … when you sit with him and watch him watch safety play, he’s looking for different things than maybe we are maybe as a scouting staff or guys who maybe never played the position.
“He’s able to come into the meetings and impart what he saw, and that helps all of us as we’re evlauating guys and that’s the biggest part of it for all of us. To be able to pick his brain.”
Where will this ultimately lead? Dawkins just smiles and says he has big plans. Bigger than just working in scouting.
“Bigger is bigger,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “Bigger is bigger. I don’t know what bigger is. I just know bigger is not where I’m standing right now.
“So whatever bigger is, that’s what we’re shooting for.”