Dawkins embracing post football life

by - Senior Writer -
Photo by Ron Chenoy / US PRESSWIRE

Brian DawkinsBrian Dawkins
#20 6-0, 200
Jacksonville, FL

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gave it everything he had during 16 superlative NFL seasons, earning nine Pro Bowl berths, so it is no surprise that he gives his post-football life everything he has as well.

Dawkins retired at the end of the 2011 season, and will eligible to enter the hallowed halls of Canton (the Pro Football Hall of Fame) in 2017, an honor he certainly deserves.

He was also a three-year starter at free safety for Clemson, finishing his Tiger career with 247 tackles and 11 interceptions. He received First-team All-ACC Honors in 1995 and was named a Second-Team AP and Sporting News All-American as a senior when his team-high six interceptions tied him for the conference lead.

He was named the first-team strong safety on Clemson's all-centennial team in 1996 and was selected to Clemson’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

Earlier this month, Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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and the university established the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award to annually honor a former Clemson player for their performance on the field, contributions in leadership and community service.

Dawkins was the first recipient of the award, and TigerNet caught up with Dawkins this week to discuss the award, his thoughts on the football program and his post football life.

DAVID HOOD – What was it like to get back to Clemson earlier this month and hang around the players and coaches?

BRIAN DAWKINS - ”It was real good to finally be able to get back after a few years of not being able to get back. I think I was there for the spring game two years ago. To finally get back there, to get back in contact with the coaches and to sit down and chat with Dabo is always a great conversation,, and to get a chance to talk with Pat Sapp and Jeff Davis and a couple of players that I saw. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get around a lot more now that I’m retired and hopefully I’ll be able to be around the program a lot more.”

Has Dabo talked to you about where he sees you fitting into his program?

“We haven’t talked in too much detail about it. He knows my phone is always available if there’s anything that he thinks I can do. If it fits my schedule, he knows that I’m always available to him and the coaching staff. I lost one of my guys this year in Coach Cheese [Charlie HarbisonCharlie Harbison
Defensive Backs
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], and to get another one of my guys that I played for - he was coaching when I was up and coming - is Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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. That was a blessing to see that he got a chance to come and be a part of the orange.”

What are your thoughts on Reed, and how he can help the program?

“For me, he was a young coach growing up and we talked a lot about things that had nothing to do with football. We talked about how to be a professional, how to be a better man for your household and your community. Those were some of the things we talked about. From the football side of things, we kind of learned from some of the same people as far as the techniques and some of the things that will help you excel not only in college but when you get to the next level. He used athletics and life stories a little bit to allow guys to grow up and be productive citizens once they move on.”

Were you surprised when Dabo approached you about the award, or did you even know about it?

“First of all, he didn’t approach me with anything. I knew nothing about it. It was a total surprise to me when I got there. I thought I was just coming back and they were going to do a little something for me to acknowledge my retirement, the things that I have been blessed to be able to accomplish on the professional level. That’s what I was thinking coming in. Obviously, my wife knew a little more than I did. Patrick Sapp and Dabo were talking to her. But when I got there and they finally told me what was going on, I was speechless. I really was. To have something like that in your name, to be a legacy that’s going to go on in Clemson for a long time, and to know that I did my best along the way with what I had and with what the Lord blessed me with, obviously, and for me to leave a legacy the way that I have been blessed to leave one in pro football and at Clemson is just an honor to have that in my name.”

Will you help determine the winner each year?

“Yes. Every year on out, men will have to get their resumes in and we’ll go through them and have to make that decision.”

Do you like the direction of the football program?

“I love where it’s headed. To have Clemson on the forefront of the national scene and to have people talking about the talent that comes from Clemson going into the professional level. Obviously, we see C.J. [Spiller] being in the Pro Bowl and being able to root for him and what he’s for and others. To have that back in the forefront and people talking about Clemson in a good light on a consistent basis is a pride thing for me. Obviously going there, I enjoyed my time there. It was a blessing to be able to go there. To have Dabo doing the right things - I believe he does things the right way in my opinion. I believe he does not have guys come there to just go to school a little bit and play football a lot and then move on and whatever happens, happens. No, he allows them to come there to play football, you’re going to school, you’re going to grow up, and you’re going to graduate. We want you to be productive citizens once you leave the university. I think he’s doing a good job producing quality individuals out of Clemson.”

When the secondary job opened up here at Clemson, there were many who said they would love to see take the job if it was offered. Is that something you would be interested in?

“As of right now, life after football is a blessing. I came out of it. I prayed about it and came out on my own terms as far as my health is concerned. I’m healthy. There’s nothing on me that’s hurting so I can go into the next phase of my life with a lot of positive momentum going forward. I’ve done my due diligence as far as saving so I can do the things that I want to do now and not the things I have to do. I’m doing a little analysis work for ESPN, speaking engagements from time to time, spiritual or motivational speeches, visitation speaking. As far as coaching is concerned, I coach at my son’s high school. That’s another reason I chose to retire because Brian is in high school now and I wanted to be around him more. There are a lot of sacrifices that you have to make when you play professional football. I’m one of those individuals that when I’m in something, I’m in it and that’s the only thing I’m focused on. Unless something bad happened that I have to focus on, then I’m focused on being the best football player that I can be. Now, it’s making sure that I’m around the house and around Brian teaching him the techniques at cornerback that he’s going to need going forward if he chooses and is blessed to go on and play college and professional football. Is coaching in my future? To say that I will coach at the college or professional level? if I’m blessed to do that, but it’s not where I’m at right now because I want to be around the house more. Once again, if I decide to do that, I’m an individual that I’m going to pour everything I have into it- the late nights and all of the things that go into it to make sure that the guys are more than prepared to go out and dominate. I’m not just talking about go out and play, I want to them to go out and dominate. Giving them the tools that it is going to take to do it and allow them to play and whatever their personalities allows them to show as well.”

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