PHILADELPHIA - When Brian Dawkins first pulled on an Eagles jersey as a rookie safety in 1996, it wasn't number 20.
"I wore 20 during my last year at Clemson, but when I got to the Eagles, (running back) Vaughn Hebron had that number, so I took 24," Dawkins said Friday during an interview at the NovaCare Complex. "When he got released (at the end of the preseason), I mustered up the courage to go to (former Eagles equipment manager) Rusty (Sweeney) and ask for 20 and he gave it to me."
No one else will ever wear No. 20 again.
The Eagles will be retiring Dawkins' jersey on Sunday at halftime of their game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dawkins, who spent 13 of his 16 NFL seasons (1996-2008) with the Eagles, will become the eighth player in franchise history to have his number retired. He will join running back Steve Van Buren (15), defensive back Tom Brookshier (40), tight end Pete Retzlaff (44), center/linebacker Chuck Bednarik (60), lineman Al Wistert (70), defensive end Reggie White (92) and defensive tackle Jerome Brown (99).
"I still can't believe it," Dawkins said. "I never dreamed that this would happen. When I first got here, my only goal was to make the team. I never thought about playing in the NFL 16 years and having this kind of influence. Honestly, it's a very humbling feeling. I'm truly blessed."
During his tenure with the Eagles - he played three seasons with Denver (2009-11) before retiring - Dawkins was not only one of the best players on the team, but the most popular among the fans.
Whenever the defense was introduced before home games, Dawkins was always the last to emerge from the tunnel. The crowd would stand and cheer while Dawkins' alter ego, a character he nicknamed 'Idiot Man,' would crawl, dance and/or run through the fog to join his teammates at midfield.
He also played with the same unbridled aggression and enthusiasm, traits that fans, players and even coaches enjoyed.
"I always felt like I played the game the way they (the fans) would love to play if they got a chance to," Dawkins said. "If you had a chance to run onto that football field before a game, what would you do? How excited would you be? Would you do a flip, would you crawl, would you do all of those things. Probably, because you would be so excited.
"If you had the chance, if you had the mindset and the skills and the size and the speed and the courage to hit those dudes (opposing players) full speed, would you do it? Absolutely you would. And that's how I played, the way I think most people would play if they got the chance. Plus, I always played with my emotions on my sleeve, which I think allowed fans to see things from my vantage point. Looking back, I must admit I did some crazy things, but I can dig it because I loved it and I think they did, too."