When Brian Dawkins retired from the NFL in 2011, few doubted he would be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But what many didn’t know was that Dawkins had big plans for life after the gridiron.
In his new book, Blessed by the Best: My Journey to Canton and Beyond (Camino Books, 256 pages), Dawkins talks about the hurdles he had to overcome to become one of the greatest safeties ever to play the game. More importantly, he tries to inspire readers to surmount the challenges they face every day. In this exclusive interview, Dawkins discusses his career, playing in Philadelphia and how he tries to live a life that lifts others.
MLT: Before embarking on this project, had you ever thought about writing a book?
Brian Dawkins: No. Not even a little bit. I thought writing a book was for someone else. I was not a big reader growing up.
MLT: What appealed to you about doing it once you committed to the project?
BD: I wanted to talk about the things I learned in life and who I Iearned them from, putting it all into a form people could relate to. I can’t be everywhere, and one way to get the information to people is through a book.
MLT: What is the main message you want to convey to those who read the book?
BD: When things happen in life, perspective is the key to everything. It’s how you re-frame it. A lot of people blessed me in my life, and I learned that the way to change things is to channel and refocus energy. One of the main ingredients in that is hard work.
MLT: What do you mean when you say you were “blessed by the best?”
BD: It comes from the perspective of recognizing the individuals who help you in certain moments. I was blessed by the best people for me in those moments—by word or example. When you understand that those people are there for you, you can thank those individuals and show gratitude.
MLT: You talk in the book about the depression you encountered early in your NFL career. Did you expect to have troubles in the NFL?
BD: I wasn’t thinking that far ahead.
There was so much going on while I was at Clemson University. I knew I’d have to prove myself, and the way I could do that was to have a mindset that was 100 percent in the moment, so I could prove myself to people who thought I couldn’t do well.
MLT: You talk a lot about your hard work. Was that something you had to develop?
BD: I knew I had a work ethic. I wasn’t an individual who was going to quit. I didn’t define it as a work ethic—I just wasn’t going to quit. I was going to give you 100 percent, all out, full speed. I’m one of those individuals—like my father taught me—who you can count on to do more than you expected.
MLT: How much did you enjoy playing in Philadelphia?
BD: I loved it. The expectations of the fans never bothered me. Their expectations were lower than mine. You may have seen me mess up on the field, but when I looked at film, I saw three other plays I messed up. My expectations were extremely high. I was hard on myself. The thing that played into my psyche in a good way is that dark side in Philadelphia. I loved that. I have a dark side to me. I could let myself go crazy and commit mayhem. I worked my behind off for everything I got, and Philly is a hard-working place.
MLT: How tough was it for you to leave Philly for Denver?
BD: It was extremely difficult. I know now that it was a mourning experience, like someone had passed who’d been close to me. I had to move on, and the way I moved on was to forgive some individuals so I could be good for the Broncos.
MLT: When people meet you, they’re often impressed by how authentically you live the things you say. How important is that for you?
BD: It’s hard at times, but it’s extremely rewarding. The Biblical principles that I speak of ask me not to be a hearer of the Word but a doer of the Word. You’re supposed to do the things you say. I’ve worked my behind off, through prayer and fasting, so that’s become the case in my life. How do you behave when no one is watching? When no one is watching, the good Lord is watching. If I give you my word, I want to follow through on it. The greatest sermon I’ll ever preach is the life I live.
MLT: How important is it for you to recognize your blessings?
BD: Always make sure you count your blessings, not your problems. Sometimes that’s extremely difficult for people. I always remember that the thing I’m going through will not last. And that’s when I will grow. I ask myself during tough times, “What am I supposed to be learning with this doggone thing?” I don’t concentrate on the pain. I try to see what I’m supposed to be learning during this time of pain.
MLT: How important was it for you to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
BD: That’s another reason the book was written. When I received the phone call, I said, “We did it!” When I said “we,” it brought to mind all the individuals along the way who helped. “We did it!” puts it into perspective. Look what we did. It’s not, “Look what I did.” That’s the power in it. I re-framed it so it was “we” instead of “me.”
MLT: What’s next for you?
BD: I’m launching my B.E.A.S.T. program, which stands for Best Energy and Attitude for the Self Today. I want to help people be beasts in all the situations they’re in. I retired from football, but I didn’t retire from my purpose.