Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dawkins Has Risen from Bottom to Top

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dawkins Has Risen from Bottom to Top

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

To understand how Brian Dawkins got to where he is today -- a Pro Bowl safety, coming home to Jacksonville, fresh off a game that still has Philadelphia buzzing -- perhaps it is best to start by going back to the Eagles' last visit to Alltel Stadium.

It was Oct. 12, 1997, the day before his 24th birthday.

From a distance, Dawkins looked like a classic feel-good story. From Raines High School to Clemson to rising NFL star.

The year before, in only the first month of his pro career, he won a starting spot in the Eagles' secondary, made his first NFL interception and, on Monday Night Football, sacked Troy Aikman, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

He also drank too much and thought about killing himself.

We have images of depression. We hear that word and envision someone going through tough times. Perhaps, if told to picture someone successful, we see artists and authors, Churchill and Hemingway, Barbara Bush and Ted Turner.

An athlete?

The statistics say depression affects all ages, all walks of life, in bad times and good. Yet, we have trouble picturing an athlete dealing with it.

We shouldn't. Not when we listen to the stories from Heisman Trophy winners (Ricky Williams), Olympic skiers (Picabo Street), pro golfers (John Daly) and Pro Bowl safeties.

"I would say 1997," Dawkins said, when asked to pick a turning point. "That was when everything just bubbled to the top. . . . I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to either commit suicide or turn my life completely over to the Lord."

Dawkins started taking pills for depression. He stopped drinking Coronas and hanging out with the boys. He says God saved him. God and Connie.

"We met at Raines," he said. "I was, and I still am, a shy guy. …

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