PHILADELPHIA - No Eagles player will ever wear a number five jersey again.
Franchise owner Jeffrey Lurie announced Monday during Donovan McNabb's retirement ceremony at the NovaCare Complex that the team will retire the former quarterback's jersey when the Eagles host ex-coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It really hasn't sunk in with me yet," McNabb said after his news conference. "It's outstanding. As a father, you always want to be remembered. You want your kids to think of you as a superhero. Now, whenever they come back here, they will see my name and my face in the rafters they will think their dad or grandad was a superhero, and that's something special."
McNabb, who played for the Eagles for 11 seasons (1999-2009), will become the ninth player in franchise history to have his number retired, joining center/linebacker Chuck Bednarik (60), defensive back Tom Brookshier (40), defensive tackle Jerome Brown (99), safety Brian Dawkins (20), tight end Pete Retzlaff (44), running back Steve Van Buren (14), defensive end Reggie White (92) and end Al Wistert (70).
Dawkins, who had his jersey retired last year, was McNabb's teammate for 10 seasons (1999-2008) and delivered an emotional, passionate speech on McNabb's behalf Monday and then embraced him.
"I happened to be here before we got Donovan," said Dawkins, who joined the Eagles in 1996. "We had some rough times, but the minute Donovan got here, we knew the franchise was on the upswing.
"The thing that people don't understand is what kind of leader he was for us. I knew ... that whenever we took the field I was going to get 110 percent from my quarterback. Not every quarterback has that in him. I know we didn't accomplish the ultimate goal, but we had a lot of success and we always knew we would go as far as he took us. It was a pleasure to work with you, and I love you, bro."
The fans did not always share Dawkins' attitude toward McNabb.
Since the day he arrived as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 draft - a few Eagles fans booed his selection at draft headquarters in New York - he endured a love/hate relationship with the team's passionate fan base.
Dawkins, a fiery, hard-hitting safety, was beloved. McNabb was viewed by some as aloof and quirky and usually bore the brunt of the blame for the team's failures.
"Fans connect with players in different ways," Lurie said after the news conference. "It's hard for a quarterback because he is always going to have his ups and downs. He's not going to have that organic matchup with fans like Brian Dawkins had. But Donovan was still immensely popular. His jersey was by far the most popular selling jersey in Philadelphia when he was here. Whenever we announced that he would be signing autographs (during training camp) at Lehigh, people would sleep over for two days to get one.
"There was no question we would be retiring his number. Donovan was a franchise-changing quarterback for the Eagles and helped raise the bar of success for this franchise. I tell my fellow owners all the time how lucky and fortunate we were to have him as our quarterback. The number '5' has become synonymous with one of the greatest eras of Eagles football and we wanted to honor one of the greatest playmakers to ever wear an Eagles uniform."
McNabb, 36, is the franchise leader in virtually every passing category, including attempts (4,746), completions (2,801), yards (32,873) and touchdowns (216).
More importantly, he helped the Eagles earn a lot of victories. With McNabb leading the charge, the Eagles enjoyed an impressive run from 2000-08. They qualified for the playoffs seven times in that nine-year span, won five NFC East championships, reached five NFC title games and got to the Super Bowl in the 2004 season, losing to New England in Jacksonville, Fla.
After the 24-21 loss to the Patriots, several Eagles, including wide receivers Freddie Mitchell and Terrell Owens, said McNabb had gotten sick on the field during the final drive, which ended with the quarterback's third interception of the game. He also threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
After the 2009 season, which ended with the Eagles losing at Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, Lurie made the difficult decision to trade McNabb to the division rival Washington Redskins. He played just one season there, spent part of 2011 with Minnesota and sat out all of last season.
The married father of four has his own radio show and recently signed to become a TV analyst on Fox Sports 1, which will debut next month.
"I would like to apologize to the fans because I feel like I let them down," McNabb said. "I wanted to win a championship, I wanted to have that parade down Broad Street and we came up short. But I think the fans appreciate what I gave every time I stepped onto the field.
"We know we didn't put that sugar on top, that cherry on top, but we can say that we played in the Super Bowl and we did play in five NFC championship games and that's something nobody can ever take away from us."
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